Disaster response nonprofit Airlink and partners Flexport.org and Project HOPE have chartered a flight to transport a major shipment of medical supplies to COVID-19 hit Nepal. This shipment will better equip local health systems to tackle the current health crisis and prepare for the expected ‘third wave’ of COVID-19.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Country Office for Nepal estimates that there have been more than 9,000 deaths due to coronavirus, and over 650,000 confirmed cases. Nepal’s health system has been placed under extreme pressure by COVID-19 and urgently requires a range of medical supplies to cope with the surge in healthcare needs.
The total cost of the chartered flight is $290,000 with Airlink partner Flexport.org providing a significant contribution through the Flexport.org Fund to make this flight possible, and third Airlink partner Polar Air Cargo supplying US trucking to help bring the supplies to the departure airport warehouse in Chicago. Healthcare nonprofit Project HOPE organized the donation of the supplies and will hand them over to a local Nepalese charity which will dispense the aid across the local health system.
“Just back from our COVID emergency response in Nepal, my top message for the world community is: the Nepali people need sustained support,” said Tom Cotter, director of emergency response and preparedness at Project HOPE. “Local health systems are under-resourced and over-extended, straining to meet the needs of coronavirus patients and general health needs alike. We are grateful for our partners at Airlink, who meet the moment with urgent action, making it possible for global health organizations to deliver life-saving supplies and support.”
Containing a mix of medical supplies including 1.4 million gloves, 128,000 KN95 masks, 70,000 surgical masks, 35,190 face shields, and even 30 hospital beds, the total shipment is large enough to fill an IL-76 transport plane. Airlink estimates that every piece of PPE (or pair of gloves) helps one person – a healthcare worker or a patient – so this shipment will assist up to 900,000 people.
“Airlink and Project HOPE are important Flexport.org partners doing amazing work,” said Flexport.org Head of Operations, David Ashley. “We are proud to offer our logistics expertise and funding support to help make this critical shipment a reality and deliver life-saving supplies to the people of Nepal.”
“This humanitarian effort led by Airlink is critical to stem the health crisis in Nepal,” said Sylvie Blondeel, Polar Air Cargo’s Chief Financial Officer, and executive sponsor of the company’s ESG initiatives. “Support for communities in need is a key pillar of Polar’s social responsibility program and we are proud to take part in Airlink’s rapid response operation.”
The government and people of Nepal have found themselves in the midst of a perfect storm. The surge in COVID-19 cases in neighboring India saw supplies of vaccines from India cut off and Nepal had no means to produce its own vaccines. At the same time Nepal experienced its own surge in COVID-19 cases which has stressed an already fragile health system spread across a challenging topographical landscape. In response to the COVID-19 surge, the Nepalese government closed all airports to commercial flights, meaning only chartered flights could gain access. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of available charters, dramatically driving up the costs beyond the resources of most nonprofit organizations, constricting the supply of medical assistance to Nepal. To date, there have only been a few chartered flights carrying humanitarian aid to Nepal. One happened in May 2021 through Direct Relief and another in June 2021 by Amazon.
“I’m delighted that Airlink could help to make this shipment to Nepal happen,” said Steven J. Smith President and CEO of Airlink. “Being our first chartered flight for a South Asia response, this is a significant milestone for Airlink. We are extremely lucky to be supported by such generous sponsors and partners from across the aviation and philanthropic sectors who have provided the resources to make the movement of this critical shipment possible.”