Brussels, 14 March 2003 - The European Commission has allocated €8.4 million to fund the operations of ECHO Flight in the Horn of Africa during 2003. The service offers a vital lifeline for highly vulnerable people in this troubled region, providing access to places which are difficult or impossible to reach by land. It is heavily used by field staff working for ECHO and its operational partners, and enables essential supplies and equipment to be delivered speedily to the areas where they are most needed. ECHO Flight is currently serving about 180 humanitarian and development projects with an overall value of €200 million.
People living in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region have suffered a series of crises over many years. Long-running conflicts, drought and disease have resulted in widespread humanitarian needs and, in response to this, the Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) has supported a broad range of actions including health and nutrition programmes and the rehabilitation of water supplies.
Using Nairobi as the hub for its operations, ECHO Flight has flown, without injury, some 50,000 missions since 1994, transporting 200,000 passengers and more than 6000 tons of food and medical supplies. It has also mounted more than 200 emergency evacuations. It has thus played a crucial role in the successful implementation of humanitarian projects supported by ECHO and other agencies. ECHO Flight's five small aircraft currently serve Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on a regular basis, although they are also ready to respond to humanitarian disasters wherever they occur.
ECHO is committed to maintaining the high operating standards established by ECHO Flight since its inception in 1994. Following an examination of the bids received in an open call to tender, the contract was awarded to the Commission's current partner, Aviation Assistance. The decision to continue funding ECHO Flight was taken after a thorough assessment of expected air transport needs in the region, carried out in conjunction with independent experts.