DAKAR – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today warned that its UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) – that provides crucial transport links for humanitarian responders to the world’s most remote and challenging locations - will be forced to ground its planes in Guinea and Niger by August 2022 if additional funding of US$ 6.4 million is not urgently provided. This situation risks cutting off crisis-affected communities from life-saving aid at a time of unprecedented humanitarian needs.
The crisis in Ukraine has led to increased fuel prices, resulting in a higher-than-expected costs required for the maintenance and running of UNHAS aircraft. In April 2022, aircraft fuel costs increased by 26 percent in Guinea and 33 percent in Niger compared to January 2022. To ensure that humanitarian responders and essential aid supplies can continue to reach crisis-affected areas in a safe and reliable manner, WFP urges governments, donors, and partners to step up support to this crucial service that benefits the wider humanitarian community.
”The common humanitarian services provided by UNHAS have become indispensable for humanitarian and health responders tackling recurrent outbreaks of deadly diseases such as Ebola, Lassa, and Marburg epidemics in the remote Forest region of Guinea” said Hyoung-Joon LIM, WFP’s Country Director and Representative in Guinea.
“Poor and impassable roads remain a real challenge to movements within the country. Support to UNHAS is absolutely essential so that humanitarian assistance can be delivered to vulnerable communities in hard-to-reach areas of the country,” he noted.
In Guinea, following the outbreak of Lassa fever on 29 April 2022, the Government requested UNHAS to assist with transporting tests and other medical items from Bissau to Conakry. Earlier before, during the Ebola crisis, UNHAS was the only option and played a critical role in facilitating access and transporting Ebola vaccines, medical teams, and response equipment to crisis areas.
“The power of the collective can shift the needle in the right direction and make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable families. We need to act now to make our work in Niger more efficient and relevant than ever” said Jean-Noël GENTILE, WFP’s Country Director and Representative in Niger.
The March 2022 Cadre Harmonisé food security analysis showed the highest number of food-insecure people in Niger since 2012, with 4.4 million people projected to face acute food insecurity during the June-August 2022 lean season. In this context, UNHAS remains the only reliable and safe way for humanitarian personnel and cargo to reach people in need across the country, including in remote and hard-to-reach areas, as access via land is hampered by vast distances, poor road infrastructure, flooding, and insecurity.
Since January 2022, UNHAS operations in Guinea and Niger have received funding from European Union (ECHO), France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom (FCDO) and the United States of America.
Established in 2004, the WFP-managed UNHAS is a common service for the entire humanitarian community, operational where viable air options do not exist. The service currently runs in 22 operations and transports up-to 400,000 passengers across over 300 regular destinations each year using a diversified fleet of fixed-winged aircraft and helicopters. In addition to regular services, UNHAS also performs medical evacuations and security relocations upon request.
The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.