Funding shortfall forces UN to cut back air service for aid workers

10 June 2008The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today it will have to cut back on its air service in Sudan due to lack of funds, curtailing the ability of 14,000 aid workers to travel to Darfur and other parts of the strife-torn nation. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today it will have to cut back on its air service in Sudan due to lack of funds, curtailing the ability of 14,000 aid workers to travel to Darfur and other parts of the strife-torn nation. The Humanitarian Air Service (WFP-HAS), run by WFP on behalf of the entire humanitarian community in Sudan, needs $20 million by 15 June to avoid cuts and maintain full service through the coming months. The total shortfall is $48 million on the $77 million budget for this year.WFP’s Representative in Sudan, Kenro Oshidari said the agency has been facing the possible closure of the air service since March because of lack of funding. “The measures announced today are aimed to keep vital services going for longer, while we wait for new funding to be confirmed,” he stated. WFP-HAS will have to cut one helicopter immediately – bringing the fleet down to five – and two fixed-wing aircraft on 19 June, in addition to raising fees for helicopter flights in Darfur starting 1 July.Some 3,000 humanitarian workers use WFP helicopters each month to reach remote parts of Darfur, where travel by road is impossible due to insecurity, banditry or poor road conditions. “Undoubtedly, this is a blow to the humanitarian effort in Sudan. The impact will be felt by vulnerable people who depend on the international community for crucial services,” he said.Mr. Oshidari added that the cuts will also reduce the ability to respond to urgent medical evacuation requests and staff relocations because of insecurity. Last year, WFP-HAS carried out 267 security and medical evacuations.So far this year, donors have provided $13.2 million in confirmed contributions to WFP-HAS, about 17 per cent of the required budget. read more

Iraq UN official welcomes creation of human rights commission

Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, issued a statement in Baghdad calling the creation of the Independent High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) “a milestone” that will further existing efforts by the national Government’s human rights ministry, the judiciary, the Council of Representatives, law enforcement agencies and civil society groups.He said the new body will help advance human rights in many spheres, including the civil, cultural, economic, political and social.The Council of Representatives agreed yesterday to the setting up of the IHCHR, which is mandated in the Iraqi constitution, after the proposal was presented by the Council’s human rights committee following months of work.Mr. de Mistura called on both the Council and the Iraqi Government to ensure “the prompt establishment of a strong, credible and independent Commission that from the outset becomes an institution responsive to the needs of the Iraqi citizens, especially those of vulnerable groups such as children, women and minorities,” according to his statement.He stressed that the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) is ready to help with the selection process for IHCHR members and work the Commission once it is operating, in line with Iraqi law.On Friday, Mr. de Mistura briefed the Security Council at UN Headquarters in New York on the latest developments inside Iraq, warning that the country is entering a critical period as it prepares for upcoming provincial polls.The Special Representative said the polls offered an opportunity to shape a new political landscape in the fledgling democracy, while he cautioned that the potential for election-related violence and instability remains. 17 November 2008The top United Nations official in Iraq today welcomed the country’s establishment of an independent commission to promote and protect human rights in the troubled Middle East country. read more