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Emergency aid bound for Somalia Image Credit: Clint Egbert, Gulf News

Dubai: The International Humanitarian City (IHC) in Dubai has chartered a cargo plane to deliver over 35 tons of aid and critical supplies to Somalia to help the country combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and provide relief to those affected by the floods.

The Mogadishu-bound flight will leave on Wednesday (May 13) from Sharjah International Airport carrying essential items, including jerry cans, blankets, sleeping mats and kitchen sets to help thousands of internally displaced Somalis due to floodings.

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Essential items, including jerry cans, blankets, sleeping mats and kitchen sets, will be sent to Somalia Image Credit: Clint Egbert, Gulf News

There are also 10 ventilators, emergency supplies, laboratory diagnostics and personal protective equipment (PPE) for community health care workers who are in the frontline against COVID-19.

According to IHC, the chartered fight was arranged at the personal request of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to help those most in need during challenging times.

“The combination of this cargo destined to fight the COVID-19 and assist population affected by natural disasters, demonstrates the capacity of the IHC in responding to large-scale emergencies impacting large populations, whilst simultaneously dealing with other natural disasters or complex emergencies. We are very proud to continue to serve together with our global humanitarian community based here in Dubai to assist those most in need,” underlined IHC CEO Giuseppe Saba.

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Giuseppe Saba Image Credit: Clint Egbert, Gulf News

200,000 Somalis internally displaced

Internal conflicts and heavy floods have forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in Somalia, amidst the COVID-19 threat.

Nadia Jbour, head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in the UAE, said: “Since the beginning of this year, more than 200,000 Somalis have become internally displaced either due to climate-related disasters or conflict.

“We fear that these emergencies combined with the spread of COVID-19 will lead to devastating consequences, unless there is a strong and coordinated response from the international community and humanitarian actors,” she added.

According to Worldometer’s COVID-19 data, as of May 12, Somalia has 1,089 confirmed COVID-19 cases; 52 people have died and 121 have recovered from the disease.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a recent report the geographic vastness of the country and difficulty in accessing remote areas has made it extremely difficult to access these areas with humanitarian support during this long period of restriction and lockdown.

The WHO has intensified its response operations by deploying over 4,000 community health care workers to visit at least 5,000 households every month for contact tracing.

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Aid for Somalia Image Credit: Clint Egbert, Gulf News

Speaking to Gulf News, Robert Blanchard, a representative from WHO’s logistics hub in Dubai, said they are dispatching to Somalia over seven tons of emergency supplies, including PPE, surgical masks, examination gloves and at least 10 ventilators.

“The supplies will be distributed across the country, supporting numerous hospitals, clinics and heath care workers,” he said.

Blanchard noted the WHO has also “dispatched more than 160 shipments to 100 countries around the world – from Bolivia to the Philippines.”

“WHO continues to support health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 response across the globe by equipping them with emergency supplies, PPE and laboratory diagnostics,” he added.

Aside from sending airlifts, Muhammad Yaqoob, UNHCR senior global supply officer, told Gulf News, the UNCHR will also send sea shipments of emergency assistance Somalia.