Hollywood humanitarians assist critical UN air operations in Darfur

Accra- Ghana (PANA) -- A few days after the United Nations World Food Programme ( WFP) warned its air transports for aid workers in war-ravaged Darfur could be gr o unded for lack of funds, an organization of Hollywood celebrities has provided t h e first donation of the year to keep it running.
WFP's Humanitarian Air Service (WFP-HAS) has received $500,000 from Not On Our W atch, the humanitarian organization founded by actors George Clooney, Don Cheadl e , Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, producer Jerry Weintraub and civil rights lawyer David P ressman, the agency said on Thursday according to a statement released by the UN Information Centre in Accra.
WFP-HAS announced earlier this week that by the end of March it would be forced to ground the helicopters and aeroplanes that carry 8,000 relief workers, along w ith supplies, to remote parts of the vast region because no confirmed donations h ad arrived toward its $77 million budget this year.
Most passengers using the service, which began operations in 2004, are staff mem bers of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) providing assistance in health car e , water and sanitation or food relief.
"Having seen first hand the epic humanitarian challenge in Darfur, George Cloone y and his colleagues know the life saving power of the Humanitarian Air Service, " WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said.
"This contribution will make a difference to the millions of vulnerable women an d children trapped there, and we hope it will inspire other donations," she adde d .
In 2007, Not On Our Watch granted $1 million dollars to the WFP-HAS, whose month ly budget to run its 24 aircraft throughout North and South Sudan, including Dar f ur, runs to $6.
2 million.
"We are proud to help ensure the survival of this lifesaving program and strongl y encourage others to do the same," said UN Messenger of Peace and award-winning actor George Clooney, who recently returned from a visit to Darfur with peacekee p ing officials.
"Protection of these victims should not fall solely in the hands of charitable o rganizations," he added.
"Governments have a responsibility to help those who ca n not defend themselves.

14 march 2008 20:39:00

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