With an eight-month old peace deal signed between the Sudanese Government and Southern rebels holding steady, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today handed over a refurbished airport to the local government in South Sudan’s interim capital of Rumbek to provide greater access to the war-wracked region.“This airport is just a part of the greatly deserved peace dividend for southern Sudan after 21 years of civil war and neglect,” said WFP Deputy Executive Director Susana Malcorra. “At the same time, WFP is providing food aid and repairing roads. The south needs all the help the international community can provide.” The airport rehabilitation is part of WFP’s Special Operation for emergency road repairs and mine clearance of key transport routes in southern Sudan that began in 2003 and will end in 2006. The agency warns however that the $182 million project faces a shortfall of some 61 per cent, having thus far received only $70 million in contributions. The southern-based Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the northern Khartoum Government signed a peace accord in January which ended Africa’s longest-running conflict and led to the swearing in of a national unity Government in early July. Long-time SPLM leader John Garang, subsequently sworn in as First Vice-President, was killed in a helicopter crash on 30 July and has since been succeeded by former rebel commander Salva Kiir.The new 28 hectare airport, upgraded at a cost of just over $1 million, will provide greater access to the south, where poor roads, an annual rainy season and insecurity are major obstacles to transport and commerce, WFP said. The runway is long enough to accommodate large aircraft capable of carrying 16.2 metric tons of cargo. WFP began reconstructing an existing airstrip at the site in February and completed the project in July. The new airport includes a 2.4 kilometre runway, a 1.8 kilometre taxiway, access ramps, 6.5 kilometres of drainage works and a traffic control tower.