WFP has handed over an airport upgraded at a cost of US$1.6 million to the local government in the South Sudan interim capital of Rumbek to provide greater access to the south.
A WFP delegation including Deputy Executive Director Susana Malcorra, Michael Stayton, the Executive Director’s Chief of Staff, and South Sudan Coordinator Arnt Breivik were present for the handover ceremony.
Major-General Daniel Deng, acting caretaker governor for South Sudan’s Lakes region, accepted the 28-hectare airport on behalf of Sudan’s First Vice-President Salva Kiir.
“This airport is just a part of the greatly deserved peace dividend for southern Sudan after 21 years of civil war and neglect,” said Malcorra. “At the same time, WFP is providing food aid and repairing roads. The south needs all the help the international community can provide.”
GREATER ACCESS TO THE SOUTH
WFP began building a second runway beside an existing airstrip at the site in February and completed the project in July. The airport includes the new 1.8 kilometre runway, an upgraded airstrip, which is being used as a taxiway, access ramps, 6.5 kilometres of drainage works, an immigration office and a traffic control tower.
The airport will provide greater access to the south, where poor roads, an annual rainy season and insecurity are major obstacles to transport and commerce. The new runway is long enough to accommodate aircraft as large as Hercules C-130s - capable of carrying 16.2 metric tons of cargo.
EMERGENCY AID OPERATION
WFP will continue using Rumbek airport as part of its emergency aid operation in the south, which is struggling to recover from drought and civil war. Much of WFP food for southern Sudan is currently flown in from Lokichoggio and dropped directly to people in need.
The airport rehabilitation is part of WFP’s Special Operation for emergency road repairs and mine clearance of key transport routes in southern Sudan from August 2003 until the end of 2006. The US$182 million operation has received contributions of US$70 million, leaving a shortfall of US$112 million or 61 percent.
WFP plans to deliver emergency food aid to 3.2 million people in Sudan’s south, east and transitional areas at a cost of more than US$300 million in 2005. However, a severe funding shortfall of 41% is severely hampering the provision of the food, so badly needed at the height of the current “hunger” season.