8-Dec-2011 Source: ECHO Nairobi
Quick and safe access to humanitarian crises is at times difficult and often altogether impossible when infrastructure such as roads and bridges are destroyed or conflict makes them too dangerous to use. This means that assistance cannot reach people in need fast enough and such a delay may lead to loss of lives.
The European Commission is addressing this gap by contributing â‚¬6 million towards two helicopters that will be based in Kampala, Uganda with a worldwide mandate to strengthen the humanitarian response capacity. This service is operated by the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) which is managed by the World Food Programme.
â€œWhen responding to emergencies, logistics is a critical element. This is why the European Commission is funding two civilian helicopters to ease access to crises zones around the worldâ€œ, says Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commissioner responsible for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.
Humanitarian actors in the Democratic Republic of Congoâ€™s Goma region benefited from the first deployment in November, 2011. One of the MI-8 helicopters with a capacity for 19 passengers or three tons of cargo plied the route between Goma and Walikale for a week, easing logistical challenges for the aid agencies.
As a result of heavy rains, the Dolo Ado air strip in southern Ethiopia is flooded. This is where an estimated 140,000 Somali refugees have fled as a result of famine and conflict in their country. The Commission has deployed one of the helicopters to fly personnel and resources between Gode and the five Dolo Ado refugee camps. From Gode there are United Nations and commercial flights to Addis Ababa.
â€œThe rapid deployment of one helicopter to southern Ethiopia will ensure that humanitarian operations in Dolo Ado continue to run smoothlyâ€œ, says Kirstalina Georgieva. The helicopter will be stationed in Gode until the Dolo Ado air strip becomes usable again.
Editor note – the Mi-8 featured is operated by GM Helicopters of Latvia