Air bridge operation gets underway for ‘most fragile’ countries

More than 100 countries grappling with COVID-19 are set to benefit from an international “air bridge” operation transporting essential health and humanitarian supplies, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Monday.

The project – supported by the United Arab Emirates – aims to supply millions of medical items and thousands of tonnes of aid supplies to vulnerable communities and frontline workers, the agency said.

It comes as most commercial airlines remain grounded and supply chains face unprecedented disruption.

An inaugural flight has already departed Abu Dhabi carrying medical equipment via Oslo in Norway, to various locations.

Once fully operational, three aircraft will fly to key locations across Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, reconnecting aid operations “with a supply of medical equipment, goods and expertise needed to confront COVID-19 in the world’s most fragile settings”, WFP said in a statement.

In common with other UN agencies, WFP has warned that many communities are “on the edge of survival” in parts of the world, who are already dealing with economic shocks, conflict and natural disaster.

In the next three months, it needs $1.9 billion to pre-position three months of food assistance in priority hunger hotspots around the world.

The new air bridge operation represents 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 $350 million.