More than 3 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered around the world,
and while 85 percent of shots have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income
countries, only 0.3 percent of doses have been administered in low-income countries.
If we think we have dealt with COVID-19 we are seriously mistaken.
COVID-19 is fast becoming a two-tier pandemic underscoring global inequality, with low- and middle-income countries experiencing higher excess mortality rates (the number of deaths from all causes during a crisis above the norm) while also bearing the brunt of natural disasters and other humanitarian crises.
The advent of several variants, including the Delta variant first identified in India, is now causing spikes in likely and unlikely places around the world. As these surges arise, Airlink is working to help; the organization is currently working on shipments to 10 countries to help combat the spread of the virus and help healthcare systems cope with surges of new patients.
Here are the places to watch around the world...
Asia-Pacific: India, Bangladesh, Nepal
The Delta variant has caused spikes in COVID-19 across the region, from Afghanistan to Sri Lanka. The most heavily affected countries, however, were India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. As cases in many major metropolitan areas of India level off, rural communities—where two-thirds of Indians live—continue to experience the surge. In addition, the lack of medical oxygen and crowded medical facilities have contributed to a proliferation of a second epidemic: mucormycosis, a formerly-rare fungal disease that is now spreading across the country. This has resulted in a prolonged strain on healthcare systems in many states.
Meanwhile, surrounding countries continue to report thousands of new cases per day – June 22 saw 3,700 new cases in Nepal and 4,600 in Bangladesh as the latter continues towards a second major spike in as many months.
So far, Airlink has mobilized 14 shipments to India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. By July 2, some 130 tons of supplies (287,776 pounds) – including oxygen concentrators, pulse oximeters, personal protective equipment (PPE), and ventilators – will have reached India and the surrounding countries. Airlink has already provided more than $500,000 in transportation relief to NGOs sending supplies to countries directly affected by the Delta variant and other emerging variants in the region. With a third wave of COVID-19 becoming more possible in India in the coming weeks as states reopen, we are committed to continuing our support for as long as it is needed.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Uganda
The Delta variant, as well as the Alpha variant (first identified in the UK) and Beta variant (first identified in South Africa), are spreading quickly across the African continent. While many countries are experiencing surges, Uganda is currently experiencing one of the worst. Young people have been the population hardest hit by this surge, as is common in many places affected by the Delta variant, as limited vaccination campaigns reach the elderly. With oxygen supplies under pressure and a positivity rate that has increased sixfold over the last month, the time to act is now.
Uganda will need many of the same interventions that have worked well in India – oxygen concentrators, pulse oximeters, and personal protective equipment. To that end, Airlink is currently working on two shipments of such supplies, which will reach Entebbe over the coming weeks. Over the last year, Airlink has also supported several shipments of PPE, solar power for medical equipment, and other medical supplies and hygiene materials to Uganda to support health systems during the pandemic.
Latin America and the Caribbean: Brazil & the Dominican Republic
Brazil is in the midst of its largest spike in cases to date, resulting from the Gamma variant first detected there, and the COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 500,000 people in the country over the last year. The variant in Brazil is proving far more harmful to young people and children than the original disease and is two and a half times more transmissible.
Meanwhile in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic is in the midst of its third wave of COVID-19. The increase in positivity rates across the country has led to increased patient volumes in hospitals, and healthcare systems are quickly becoming overwhelmed.
Airlink is working to move 1 shipment of personal protective equipment to Sergipe, Brazil—the country’s smallest state—to support the response, as well as another shipment of PPE to the Dominican Republic to support the government-led response to the surge there. More help is needed, however, and Airlink is committed to serving the needs for airfreight of PPE and oxygen supplies as they arise throughout both countries and throughout the region.
Airlink’s Commitment to Helping Low- and Middle-Income Countries
It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected developing countries around the world; indigenous populations, refugees and internally displaced people, and people affected by disasters have been hardest hit by the virus.
In April 2020, Airlink launched AviationCARES, an initial commitment to support communities and health systems through the pandemic response for one year, as well as responding to natural disasters and humanitarian crises that occur each year. The need for support to these communities and healthcare systems has continued as surges like those above continue to arise. Airlink’s AviationCARES program will continue for as long as is needed to tackle COVID-19 and ensure people around the world have access to necessary medical care, vaccinations, and sanitation and hygiene to stay safe.