The European Commission (EC) is deploying its humanitarian air service with immediate effect to open up a vital line of support into and out of Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic (CAR), as international efforts to stabilise the strife-torn country intensify.
The first aircraft, run by ECHO Flight, the EU’s humanitarian air service, with a capacity of 50 passengers or five tonnes of cargo, arrived in Douala, Cameroon today. The CRJ 200 jet aircraft will perform daily rotations between Bangui and Douala establishing a humanitarian air bridge to ferry humanitarian goods and personnel into the country.
“In recent days we have heard horrific stories of massacres from CAR. The arrival of international forces in Bangui and their deployment beyond the capital represent the only hope of security for millions of people who have been living in fear most of this year,” said Kristalina Georgieva, EU Commissioner for International Co-operation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.
“ECHO Flight is making a vital contribution to ensuring humanitarian aid reaches those most desperately in need, providing a means of delivery for essential life-saving services,” she said adding a tribute to aid workers from NGOs, the Red Cross and the UN who stayed on to help people in Bangui and in the interior of CAR throughout the events of recent months.
“The needs will remain enormous for some time and while the EU has already doubled humanitarian aid to twenty million euros it is clear much more funding will be required. I appeal to international donors to be compassionate and generous for a crisis which remained forgotten far too long.”
In addition to mobilising ECHO Flight, the EU is doubling the size of its team of humanitarian experts based in Bangui, who work with humanitarian aid agencies to help channel assistance to the people in greatest need.
More than 400 000 people have been displaced by the fighting in CAR. With €20 million in aid since the beginning of 2013 the European Commission is the country’s biggest humanitarian donor.
The EC provides support in several sectors including protection, access to health care, food and nutrition, drinking water distribution, sanitation services, logistics and humanitarian co-ordination as well as helping those directly affected by fighting.
The EU’s ECHO Flight is based in Nairobi and operates several aircraft on a permanent basis to provide air services for humanitarian agencies in the Great Lakes legion. It can be rapidly redeployed to provide services in the wider Central African region.