Somalia

UN Emergency Fund gives US$3 million for Somalia aid flights

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NAIROBI - The United Nations World Food Programme today thanked the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) for a US$3 million contribution that will save costs in flying passengers and cargo in and around Somalia as well as provide funding to rehabilitate a key airstrip in the war-torn country.

On behalf of UN agencies, WFP manages the UN Common Air Service (UNCAS), which makes regular flights into and out of Somalia from neighbouring Kenya and internal flights within Somalia carrying both humanitarian workers and cargo. The new CERF funding will underwrite part of the costs for passengers and all the costs for cargo that until now have been paid in full by agencies and partner non-governmental organizations using the service.

"WFP is extremely grateful for this very timely contribution from CERF," said WFP Somalia Country Director Peter Goossens in Nairobi. "It means that agencies and NGOs will be able to send more staff and more assistance by air - something that is essential during the current long rains, especially with the recent increased needs arising from the fighting in Mogadishu."

As a result of the CERF donation, humanitarian workers will now only pay US$250 for any UNCAS flight rather than the full cost. The CERF funds will support the cost-saving on passenger seats for three months and additional air cargo for two months. WFP is appealing to donors for follow-up funding.

In addition, the CERF (see: http://ochaonline.un.org) donation will pay for the emergency rehabilitation of the airstrip at Wajid in southwestern Somalia to avoid its imminent closure. Wajid is the only continuously accessible airstrip in south and central Somalia and is a vital hub for humanitarian assistance.

While air transport is critical for aid workers and for transport of low-volume, low-weight cargo, 80 per cent of WFP food assistance for Somalia is shipped by sea. Increasing piracy is threatening to strangle those sea routes, prompting WFP to issue an appeal on 20 May for international action to stamp out the plague.

The United Nations estimates that nearly 400,000 people fled Mogadishu between 1 February and the end of April. In addition to the people forced to leave their homes in Mogadishu by fierce fighting, WFP aims to feed some 850,000 people in other parts of Somalia during 2007.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: on average, each year, we give food to 90 million poor people to meet their nutritional needs, including 58 million hungry children, in 80 of the world's poorest countries. WFP - We Feed People.

WFP now provides RSS feeds to help journalists keep up with the latest press releases, videos and photos as they are published on WFP.org. For more details see: http://www.wfp.org/english/?n=999.

WFP now has a dedicated ISDN line in Italy for quality two-way interviews with WFP officials.

For more information please contact (email address: firstname.lastname@wfp.org):

Peter Smerdon, WFP/Nairobi, Tel +254-20-7622179, Cell +254-733-528-911

Brenda Barton, Deputy Director Communications, WFP/Rome, Tel. +39-06-65132602, Cell. +39-3472582217 (ISDN line available)

Gregory Barrow, WFP/London, Cell. +44-7968-008474

Christiane Berthiaume, WFP/Geneva, Tel. +41-22-9178564, Cell. +41-792857304

Jennifer Parmelee, WFP/Washington, Tel. +1-202-6530010 ext. 1149, Cell. +1-202-4223383

Bettina Luescher, WFP/New York, Tel. +1-212-9635196, Cell. +1-646-8241112, luescher@un.org