The United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS), in partnership with the administration of Somalia's Southwest State, has rehabilitated an airport to improve air travel and movements of people in the region.
The UNSOS said on Saturday that passengers using the Shati-Gaduud International Airport in Baidoa, the largest city in Southwest State, are now enjoying better and safer services after the rehabilitation of the runway, which was built in 1972.
"Due to the absence of regular maintenance, the runway got severely damaged. Even the UN had to stop fixed-wing flights to and from Baidoa on safety grounds for years," Mohammad Shameem, UNSOS Air Operations Officer serving in Baidoa, said in a statement issued in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.
According to the UNSOS, due to the financial and technical requirements for repairing the runways, the Southwest State authorities were unable to deal with the rehabilitation project fully on their own, which led to the UN getting involved.
The UN said the road connecting Baidoa to Mogadishu is a dangerous one, often plagued by uncertainty and insecurity.
This has meant a strong reliance on air travel for the residents of Baidoa, with a population of more than 1.5 million people.
The project's overall aim was to rehabilitate about 2km of the airport's runway and taxiways.
This, the UN said, involved an extensive re-setting of the asphalt and increasing the width of the taxiways so that it could safely bear the weight of larger aircraft.
Shameem added that following the completion of the rehabilitation, the runway has become suitable for large aircraft.
"We were on the verge of shutting down this airport, but fortunately, it was reconstructed by the UN.
“It had been very rough and dangerous for lives and property. After rehabilitation, aircraft can now enjoy safe flights with unlimited loads," said Salat Mohamed Mukhtar, the manager of Shati-Gaduud Airport.