Kathmandu. - Helicopter services vital to humanitarian relief efforts in earthquake struck Nepal may be terminated earlier than planned unless more funding is secured to continue operations. Any potential interruption to United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) will leave at least 146,000 people in remote communities devastated by the 25 April and 12 May earthquakes without the support they require to survive through the monsoon and beyond, including emergency shelter and food and livelihoods support. These concerns were raised by UNOCHA on Monday in Kathmandu.
The monsoon rains and the many landslides further limit or even cut off completely access to communities, making the airlift service more critical by the day.
"Airlift support is crucial for the ongoing relief operation," said Jamie McGoldrick, Humanitarian Coordinator in Nepal. "Without it, humanitarian partners will not be able to continue providing vital assistance to communities in far-flung areas, most of which were severely affected by the earthquakes. UNHAS has been proving essential to overcoming the many logistical challenges, now compounded by the monsoon, and will remain indispensable as we move in the weeks to come with preparing these communities for their survival through the upcoming winter."
To date 139 remote communities that are currently inaccessible by road have been served by UNHAS helicopters. UNHAS says that it needs US$ 18 million to continue to support the ongoing relief operation until the end of October 2015. To date, only US$ 8.8 million (or 49 per cent) was received, leaving a US$9.2 million shortfall. If the gap is not met soon, deliveries will cease at the end of August.
"Because of great need in remote areas, exacerbated by the recent monsoon weather delays, we currently have a significant backlog," said Edmondo Perrone, Logistics Cluster Coordinator. "We have pending requests to move about 650 metric tons of emergency supplies, and new requests for the movement of cargo continue to be received daily. About 35 organizations are waiting for airlifts, which emphasizes how desperate the need is for this service right now."
UNHAS, the World Food Programme managed service, provides the entire humanitarian community involved in earthquake response with free airlift services, both cargo and passenger. It delivers supplies to remote communities on behalf of the government, as well as more than 135 NGOs, UN agencies, donors, the diplomatic community and other humanitarian partners. Since its establishment on 29 April, and despite the adverse weather, UNHAS allowed for moving more than 2,600 humanitarian workers and 1,457 metric tons of humanitarian supplies across the country. In fact, its fleet has been utilized 30 percent more than was originally envisioned, as the need was much greater than anticipated, leading to depletion of funding reserves.