GENEVA

The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) may soon be forced to halt its services delivering humanitarian aid around the world due to insufficient funding, an official said on Friday.

Elisabeth Byrs, a spokesperson for WFP, said the food relief agency’s flights could be stopped by the end of July.

“It will hit countries in Africa, where it’s badly needed, Latin America, and of course, the Middle East and Asia. All the people who need our assistance will suffer from the lack of assistance,” she warned during a UN video briefing from Geneva.

“Unless donors provide a substantial injection of funds by the end of the first week of July, WFP will have no choice but to ground most of its humanitarian air fleet by the end of July.”

She said the UN agency’s services were of critical importance in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to her, more than 2,500 responders from more than 80 aid organizations had flown to various destinations since the start of the pandemic and provided enough cargo to fill “120 jumbo jets.”

“This is a response on a scale never seen before, and with the pandemic showing no signs of abating, it is crucial that the response doesn’t stop now when it is needed most,” said Byrs.

In a separate statement, the WFP said it “stepped in to move passengers and vast volumes of health and other supplies” when flight operations were disrupted around the world.

“WFP Aviation has over recent months transported huge volumes of urgently-needed medical supplies – including PPE [personal protective equipment], masks and ventilators – as well as staff from scores of aid organisations,” it said.

The statement pointed out that WFP also used ships and trucks to transport goods on behalf of other UN agencies and non-government organizations.

“Just as demand for this service is reaching its peak, it could grind to a halt before the end of July unless substantial funding can be secured to keep WFP’s transport fleet moving,” it said.

“Of the $965 million needed to maintain the operation through to the end of the year, only $178 million has so far been confirmed or advanced.”

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