Traditionally humanitarian relief has been provided by the main international agencies in conjunction with NGOs. These include UN agencies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), USAID, the EC’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) and the International Federation of the Red Cross.
The NGO sector includes a wide range of charitable organisations including Médecins Sans Frontières, Save the Children, Oxfam, Care International and many others. These will provide support in the fight against Covid 19 whilst continuing their role in other emergency and disaster relief. But charities themselves are impacted by Covid-19. A recent survey indicated that, on average, UK-based charities expected their income to decline by some 32% this year and that 52% had already reduced their activities. It is possible that national governments may provide some financial support to charities, although this must compete with other sectors of the economy facing similar challenges as a result of Covid-19.
Aviation is vital to transport medical experts, emergency staff and equipment to those areas most in need. Specialist relief flights will be required at the global level and on a regional basis from the main airport hubs out to remote regions where no alternative method of transport is feasible or safe. WHO and WFP are supported by UNHAS (the UN’s Humanitarian Air Service) which charters aircraft from the commercial sector and currently provides flights to some 16 countries worldwide.
DG ECHO operates two similar charter operations, ECHO Flight and the EU Flight, predominately in sub-Saharan Africa, which are complemented by other ad-hoc charter flights, as required. The IFRC also charters from the commercial sector and through partnerships, including a Framework Agreement with Airbus. These air services were used extensively during the Ebola outbreak in Africa but will need to be ramped up if, as expected, the Covid-19 pandemic expands to the less-developed world. ICAO is ensuring delivery of humanitarian aid through its CAPSCA Programme (Collaborative Arrangement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation).