WFP starts Africa flights for humanitarian workers in covid-19 response

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The first flight for humanitarian workers left Ethiopia’s Bole International Airport on May 1, and flew to Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana, opening a new passenger service between a network of regional hubs for the COVID-19 response.
The service run by the World Food Programme (WFP) and Ethiopian Airlines is available for United Nations and Non-Governmental Organization staff working in the global pandemic response, according to a statement from WFP. “A dedicated fleet flies them to and from crisis areas amid reduced commercial flight availability due to travel restrictions and decreased demand,” reads the statement.
Ethiopia and Ghana both host regional hubs-part of a new network of hubs also set up by WFP in Malaysia, Panama, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This hubs-and-spokes system routes workers and medical cargo to the frontlines with flights to and from hubs and a fleet of smaller aircraft moving both cargo and personnel on to priority countries.
“Key stakeholders helped establish this vital initiative in Addis Ababa,” said Steven Were Omamo, WFP Country Director and Representative in Ethiopia. “The Government, its Ministry of Finance in particular, Bole International Airport and Ethiopian Airlines proved their commitment to fighting the pandemic by setting up and maintaining this life-saving airlink.”
The service ensures humanitarian organizations can provide the people and cargo needed to sustain assistance operations that millions of vulnerable people depend on across Africa.
WFP has also established three global Humanitarian Air Hubs in Liège, Belgium, Guangzhou, China, and Dubai in the UAE, which is the only hub that has a dual global and regional role.
WFP opened the Addis Ababa Air Hub in March at Bole Airport where 25 WFP aviation and logistics staff manage a 24-hour medical equipment operation. Staff organize warehouse space for dry bulk, temperature-controlled and cold storage cargo and onward flights. WFP also provides cargo tracking, warehouse management and customer service to countries across Africa in collaboration with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
As part of a global appeal to raise USD 2 billion for the COVID-19 response launched by the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on 25 March, WFP called for USD 350 million to support its common aviation, shipping, storage and transport and engineering services that are vital to the entire humanitarian response to the pandemic.