UN Solidarity Flights to help less developed countries face coronavirus

By Antonio Broto

Geneva, Apr 19 (efe-epa).- One of the United Nations’ top priorities at the moment is helping some of the world’s shore up their limited resources to face the spread of coronavirus.

In order to carry out the initiative, the UN has launched so-called Solidarity Flights in coordination with the World Health Organization and the World Food Progamme, whose director of Covid-19 operations, Amer Daoudi, tells Efe about the project and the challenges it faces.

“This is by far the largest global operation we have ever done,” Daoudi, who is responsible for coordination orders and the shipment of material, says.

The health emergency is starkly clear — if coronavirus can cause thousands of deaths in countries with some of the best health systems in the world, it could be catastrophic in less developed countries.

“There are many countries where a population of several million has two or three ventilators,” Daoudi says.

The WFP has made available infrastructure more habitually used for delivering relief to areas of famine and conflict zones to transport medical equipment like masks, gowns and ventilators to countries where the gear is in short supply.

“We need to race against time to deliver all the medical supplies and the medical teams that will help prepare and train the local health responses,” he says.

The network will rely on 4,000 UN workers and at least a hundred planes using storage bases in Belgium, China and the United Arab Emirates.

From there, supplies will be transported to Panama, Malaysia, Ghana, Ethiopia and South Africa, countries that will be used as hubs for their respective continents, he adds.

The Solidarity Flights programme requires at least $350 million to reach its initial target of distributing 100 million masks and gloves, 24 million ventilators, suits and protective visors and 2.5 million Covid-19 detection kits.

It requires a huge effort on the part of donors and the respective authorities in the countries in question. At the moment, the program has only gathered a quarter of the funds necessary.

The fact that today many of the airlines across the globe have their planes on the ground because of COVID-19, I am sure they can avail some of these air assets to WFP for us to be able to operate our passenger services as well as our cargo service,” Daoudi says.

He also calls on Nato to make some of its cargo planes available for the initiative.

The first of the Solidarity Flights took off from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on 14 April with enough equipment to treat 30,000 people across the African continent.

A good part of the material was donated by Chinese magnate and Alibaba founder Jack Ma.

The UN hopes the Solidarity Flights can cover at least a third of the world’s medical needs in the response against Covid-19. Some of the materials are in such short supply that tensions have arisen between governments trying to secure them.

Daoudi says this is proof the world was caught off guard by the pandemic.

“I do believe the world has to come together on being more prepared to respond to such pandemics,” he says. EFE-EPA


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