Dubai: The United Arab Emirates (UAE), in partnership with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), has launched an international ‘air bridge’ operation that will provide a lifeline of essential health and humanitarian supplies to nations around the world grappling with the impact of COVID-19.
In support of WFP’s role providing critical logistics services for the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the global humanitarian community, the UAE will dedicate a fleet of three aircraft to enable the movement of life-saving cargo and personnel where they are needed most until the end of the year, according to a statement issued by the World Health Organisation on Monday.
The first airlift departed Abu Dhabi carrying important medical equipment from Oslo to various locations. The fleet of three aircraft will operate on rotation between the UAE and key locations across Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
The UAE-WFP air bridge operation will represent a major contribution to the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan launched by the UN Secretary General at the end of March. Within this, WFP has been mandated to provide common humanitarian services, for which it is appealing for an initial US$350 million. This comes on top of the US$1.9 billion WFP requires to pre-position three months of food assistance in priority hunger hotspots around the world.
UAE steps up
As the COVID-19 pandemic collapses overstretched health systems and creates devastating social and economic impact, this support will supply millions of medical items and thousands of tons of critical humanitarian cargo to vulnerable communities and frontline workers in more than 100 countries in the months to come.
“At this grave moment in history, when so many countries face enormous challenges at home, the UAE is once again stepping up as a leading first responder to global crises and making its significant capabilities available in the service of humanity,” said WFP Executive Director, David Beasley.
The UAE decision to further boost support for global efforts to curb the COVID-19 pandemic was taken within hours of a conversation between His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and the WFP Executive Director, in which they discussed the status of global efforts to tackle COVID-19.
Communities on the edge of survival
This UAE initiative comes as WFP warns of a global humanitarian catastrophe facing communities on the edge of survival in parts of the world already dealing with economic shocks, conflict and natural disaster. Now more than ever, getting assistance to these communities is a matter of life or death. While most commercial airlines remain grounded and supply chains face complexities never seen before, the joint air bridge will reconnect aid operations with a supply of medical equipment, goods and expertise needed to confront COVID-19 in the world’s most fragile settings.
“WFP has been working tirelessly to set up the logistics backbone for the global COVID-19 effort,” said Beasley. “This partnership with the UAE will expand our capacity and support health and humanitarian organisations as we rally together to limit the spread of the virus and its devastating effects.”
Leveraging the UAE’s unique position as a logistics gateway and commercial hub connecting all corners of the world, WFP operates in Dubai the largest humanitarian response depot in its global network. This is generously supported with funding from the UAE government, one of WFP’s top donors.