WHO ‘Solidarity Flight’ Transports Medical Cargo Around Africa

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is undertaking a 24-hour operation to provide vital medical supplies to African countries that are battling to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The “Solidarity Flight” by the World Food Programme (WFP) left Addis Ababa Tuesday with cargo that included one million face masks, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE), which the WHO said would be enough to protect health workers while treating more than 30,000 patients across the continent and laboratory supplies to support surveillance and detection.

Gloves, goggles, gowns, masks, medical aprons and thermometers, as well as ventilators are also part of the air cargo.
“Commercial flights are grounded and medical cargo is stuck,” said David Beasley, the Executive Director of the WFP.

“WFP is committed to getting vital medical supplies to front lines and shielding medical workers as they save lives.

“Our air bridges need to be fully funded to do this, and we stand ready to transport frontline health and humanitarian workers as well as medical cargo,” he added.

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), under the aegis of the African Union, is providing technical support and coordination for the distribution of the supplies.

The WFP, which is appealing for $350 million to provide vital COVID-19 services globally, including the Solidarity Flights, has already received $84million.

“The Solidarity Flight is part of a larger effort to ship life-saving medical supplies to 95 countries,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO.

“The medical supplies are much needed at this critical time that medical commodities are in short supply worldwide,” said Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the AU Commission. “The African Union will continue to provide the coordination needed as well as resources to ensure that our member states are able to meet the need for healthcare services during this pandemic.”

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, said: “We have seen time and again our health workers fall victim to infectious diseases as they work in hospitals and sometimes pass away.

“This is unacceptable.

“This personal protective equipment will help keep them safe.

“WHO is committed to protecting those on the front-lines of health care,” she added.

The operation from Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa is managed by a team of 25 WFP aviation and logistics staff.

“The medical supplies are timely as the continent still has a window of opportunity to fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” said John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC.

“Collective and fast actions as exemplified by the Solidarity Flight are therefore critical.”

Meanwhile, a WHO logistics hub in Dubai, staffed by a team of seven, has been working around the clock to send over 130 shipments of PPE and laboratory supplies to 95 countries across all six WHO regions.