The first United Nations “Solidarity Flight” is scheduled to leave Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this afternoon - from there, the aircraft will transport the vital medical cargo to all countries in Africa, where supplies are desperately needed to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The airlift represents the largest single shipment of medical supplies from the World Health Organization (WHO) since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The cargo includes face shields, gloves, goggles, gowns, masks, medical aprons and thermometers, as well as ventilators.
“The cargo arrived in Addis Ababa this morning from WHO’s Dubai regional logistical hubs and these flights will move from Addis Ababa this afternoon around 3 pm Geneva time”, WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrssaid at a virtual media briefing organized by the UN in Geneva.
“These flights will transport the vital equipment to five other countries: Djibouti, Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, and Tanzania”. From those five hubs they will be transported to as many countries as possible, across the African continent.
The cargo includes “one million face masks, face shields, gloves, googles, gowns, medical aprons, and thermometers as well as ventilators enough to protect health workers while treating 30, 000 patients across the continent,’ Ms. Byrs said.
“ This is by far the largest single shipment of supplies since the start of pandemic”, she added.
This cargo will ensure that people living in weaker health care systems can get tested and treated while ensuring that health care workers are properly protected.
“WFP is setting up the Addis Ababa air ops this week to help transport protective equipment and medical supplies and humanitarian workers across Africa for the Covid-19 response”, Ms Byrs said, in reference to the airlift operation. “To do so, we badly need funding and we stand ready to set up a logistical backbone for global response effort”.
In order to continue providing these vital services, WFP is calling on donors to increase their funding for these air bridges that allow for the transfer of supplies, equipment and health care personnel to the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In reference to the WFP airlift, WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris said that the cooperation between the two agencies was an indication of the “crucial” nature of the supplies delivery, as well as of “ how important it is that we are all working across agencies and how this Covid response has to be an across-UN response.
“ This is how the world is going to beat it,” Ms. Harris added.