The World Food Program (WFP) has started its humanitarian air bridge to the nations that are especially fragile to the COVID-19 epidemic, the UN website reported on Thursday.
The first plane loaded with medical supplies for developing nations was sent on Thursday. The UN body’s humanitarian programme is aiming to ramp up the service to 350 flights per month, Reuters said.
To coordinate the antivirus efforts, the WFP chose nine airports across the planet to take part in the special humanitarian air bridge, which will transport medical and humanitarian teams from early May.
On April 30, a Boeing 757 cargo flight left Liege Airport loaded with 16 tons of medical supplies. The protective masks, gloves, medicines and syringes for Burkina Faso was sent from Belgium on Thursday evening. That cargo flight was destined for the UN children’s agency UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the West African country.
Amid coronacrisis, the grounding of commercial passenger flights has not only prevented tens of thousands of humanitarian workers from travelling but removed cargo space, the UN experts say.
“Today (the challenge) to find cargo planes is nightmarish. Prices have gone up by four or five times,” said Amer Daoudi, WFP’s COVID-19 corporate response director. “You also might not get it today or the day after or for a week.”
For WFP, the logistics arm of the UN system, locking contracts for an extended time to ensure its flights operate is quite reasonable.
UN bodies coordinated efforts in humanitarian response to COVID-19
The global humanitarian response plan brings together requirements from several United Nations bodies such as WHO, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Organization for Migration, the UN Development Program (UNDP), the UN Population Fund, UN-Habitat, the UN Refugee Agency, and the WFP.
“We need capacity to service many of the fragile countries across the globe. This air bridge is going to cover almost 120 countries,” Daoudi said.
Mr Daoudi envisages the flights will run for about three to four months but could be extended. The airlift would be stood down if viable commercial alternatives returned.
In addition, the humanitarian air bridge will be a useful option for all health workers and cargoes. Among Burkina Faso, other hub airports including Accra, Addis Ababa, Guangzhou, Johannesburg, Panama City, Shanghai, Subang and two in Dubai.