The UN Secretary-General has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is the worst crisis the world has faced since World War II. Governments are closing borders, restricting trade and grounding transport to try and contain the virus. National health structures are overwhelmed, understaffed and cannot cope with the pace with which the virus is spreading.
As of 20 July 2020, over 14 million cases have been confirmed worldwide. COVID-19 does not distinguish between individuals or countries and the entire world is exposed. Countries with weak health systems and fragile socio-economic, political and security environments are particularly vulnerable.
To fight this, we need a coordinated global response and we need it now!
We have been encouraged by the willingness of donors to support global COVID-19 humanitarian efforts. In a context in which all countries have pressing national concerns, we appreciate the continued commitment to humanitarian operations and the global response necessary to prevent the spread of the virus and ensure all are safe.
Ensuring the continuation of supply chains and transportation in and out of countries is essential for an effective global response and for frontline providers to stay and deliver in hard to reach places.
Without these common services, it is unlikely that humanitarian partners will be able to carry out a robust and effective COVID-19 response.
The World Food Programme (WFP) – the largest humanitarian organisation with proven expertise in supply chain and logistics – is working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN system and other humanitarian partners to deliver this global response – as outlined in the Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP) launched on 25 March.
WFP has been investing in sustaining these operations and has set up a comprehensive platform of common services that allows aid and health workers to stay and deliver. Existing partnerships with the public and private sector are being leveraged and used to complement WFP’s logistics capabilities, assets, expertise and services.The objectives of this are:
Supporting health partners and country efforts to augment national health systems and enable access to critical medical supplies including equipment, treatment facilities and training.
Ensuring that those furthest behind, who rely on WFP and humanitarian partners for day-to-day support, continue to receive assistance.
Ensuring duty of care for WFP staff and the broader humanitarian community.
As outlined in the last revision to the GHRP on 7 May, USD 965 million is urgently required to provide the common services that will allow aid and health workers to stay and deliver, as well as ensure real-time monitoring of the global situation until the end of 2020. The July 2020 Update of the GHRP highlights that from the US$6.7 billion needed in May to implement the international COVID-19 response, funding requirements have now risen to $10.26 billion.
The COVID-19 GHRP has three components of common services that allow humanitarian organisations to stay on the frontline and deliver: 1) air and sea cargo services, 2) air passenger transport and 3) medical evacuation services.
WFP has established strategic consolidation hubs in Guangzhou, Liege and Dubai to support the effective and efficient global movement of cargo. These international hubs are connected to regional staging areas in Africa (Accra, Addis Ababa and Johannesburg), Latin America (Panama), Asia (Malaysia) and the Middle East (Dubai).
This network of strategically located hubs accept and prepare all cargo for prioritised, coordinated forwarding to the regional staging areas and/or final destinations. Where possible, WFP is building upon the existing UNHRD network, including Brindisi, and leveraging in-house emergency telecommunications expertise, assets and partnerships to equip the hubs. Both at international and regional level, hubs are sufficiently equipped to handle medical, dangerous air cargo as well as temperature-controlled items.
Unprecedented restrictions on global international movement coupled with tightening of border controls worldwide has led to the disruption of global health and humanitarian supply-chains. WFP has set up air transport links, on a free-to-user basis, between strategic hubs and regional staging areas – and onward to final destination countries where required – to ensure the predictable and sustained movement of life-saving humanitarian and health cargo. Depending on priority of cargo, and taking into account constraints such as border closures, overland cargo transport will be explored where possible.
Medium-sized passenger aircrafts are based in the regional hubs to transport humanitarian and health staff between regional hubs and critical countries of operation. WFP is operating passenger air services to ensure that humanitarian and health staff are not restricted by commercial transport closures and can rapidly reach the areas where they are most needed. Such air services will only be used to fill the gap where commercial airlines are unavailable.
Due to the increased risk of exposure to COVID-19, movement restrictions and the grounding of commercial transport systems, WFP is exploring the set-up of medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) services. We must ensure the safety and wellness of humanitarian and health responders whilst not creating additional burdens on host governments and their health systems.