- Lack of funding is threatening the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) in Guinea, which needs over $3 million before the end of March to be able to continue transporting urgent relief items and aid workers in the country and the wider region.
“I am deeply concerned about the impact of a possible discontinuation of the flights in the absence of alternatives in terms of air transport,” said Fatma Samoura, Country Director in Guinea for the World Food Programme (WFP), which manages the air service.
UNHAS plays a vital role in countries in accessing remote locations and in cases where insecurity prevents travel by road. It flies workers from the UN and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), as well as journalists and others, to some of the hardest-to-reach emergency operations around the world.
Ms Samoura said the UN estimates that over 1.8 million people in Guinea could be affected by a halt to the flights, which were established in the country to facilitate the movement of humanitarian personnel and the transport of urgent relief items, as well as linking Guinea to other coastal West Africa nations, including Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia.
In 2009, UNHAS in Guinea transported 5,858 passengers and 85 tons of relief items, and carried out four medical evacuations of humanitarian personnel.
It covers Haute Guinee and Guinee Forestiere, the latter being regularly cut off from the rest of the country during the rainy season, from June to October, according to a news release issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
“The ongoing unstable political and security situation in the country requires a continuation of UNHAS to provide a safe and rapid response,” noted Anthony Ohemeng-Boamah, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Guinea, adding that the humanitarian needs exceed the capacity of the Government.
Guinea was gripped by unrest since government forces opened fire on unarmed protesters last September, killing at least 150 people. The UN has hailed recent moves taken by the interim president, General Sekouba Konaté, including the formation of a national unity government led by a civilian prime minister, Jean-Marie Doré, named by the opposition, and the intention to hold elections within six months.
The United Nations aid operations in West Africa late last year received a boost with the injection of fresh funds to allow humanitarian flights in the region to continue, but had said similar air services in Chad will have to be cut within three weeks unless donors come forward with more assistance.
The WFP in August reported that its Humanitarian Air Service operations for Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, would only be able to continue through September after the European Union contributed €100,000.
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