New UNAfrican Union project aims to boost humanitarian access in Darfur

2 May 2011The joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur has announced a new initiative to help aid agencies access hard-to-reach communities in parts of the strife-torn Sudanese region. The three-week project is dubbed “Operation Spring Basket” and will involve visits to several villages which have been inaccessible to humanitarian workers for some time, according to a news release issued yesterday by the mission (UNAMID), which organized the initiative along with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).“I can assure you that this will be an ongoing process. The humanitarian community will follow up in order to deliver humanitarian relief to those in need,” said Ibrahim Gambari, the head of UNAMID. The mission has been working for months with the Sudanese Government and non-signatory movements to open access to areas in the Jebel Marra region and other parts of North and West Darfur, which UN agencies believe may be in dire need of humanitarian assistance. “One of the foremost priorities for UNAMID is facilitating safe and free access for humanitarian agencies and NGOs [non-governmental organizations] into areas that are suffering from conflict and difficult to reach because of it,” Mr. Gambari told reporters in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, after returning from a visit to several villages in the area. “We have undertaken intense negotiations and outreach to secure access to these areas, which are controlled by various parties. We will provide security and logistical support to the humanitarian community intending to bring assistance to the region, regardless of who controls the territory,” he added. According to UNAMID, humanitarian agencies working in Darfur continue to face challenges in accessing populations affected by conflict owing to the vastness of the territory, poor road conditions, erratic security and blockages posed by the parties.Despite the challenges, UNAMID is working to assist the population of the region, where it has been working since 2008 to quell the fighting and ease the humanitarian suffering.“We are fully committed to ensuring the protection of civilians where we can implement UNAMID’s core mandate of protecting civilians and facilitating humanitarian delivery,” Mr. Gambari reaffirmed. read more

Air Canada to resume flights to Delhi as IndiaPakistan tensions ease

MONTREAL — Air Canada says it is resuming daily flights to northern India in the coming months as tensions with Pakistan continue to ease following a standoff between the two nuclear powers earlier this year.The airline plans to restart non-stop daily flights between Toronto and Delhi on Oct. 1. after Pakistan reopened its airspace to all traffic last week for the first time in nearly five months. Air Canada says its daily Vancouver-Delhi route will resume on Aug. 1.The two routes were among thousands disrupted in February as airlines cancelled or rerouted flights that pass through the heavily travelled India-Pakistan air corridor.The routes were quickly reopened, but suspended again in April as Pakistan’s ongoing airspace closure along its eastern border with India prompted longer, costlier flights that involved stopovers along with more landing fees and frustration from passengers.Pakistan shut its airspace in February after an Indian aircraft crossed into Pakistan to carry out what India called a pre-emptive strike against militants blamed for a Feb. 14 suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troops. Pakistan retaliated, shooting down two Indian aircraft and capturing a pilot, who was later returned to India.Over the past week United Airlines Inc., Air India and other carriers have also announced they will resume service to parts of the country.Air Canada vice-president Mark Galardo notes the renewed service will come in time for celebrations of Diwali, the Hindu festival of light. Seasonal flights between Toronto and Mumbai will also resume on Oct. 27.Companies in this story: (TSX:AC)The Canadian Press read more