Air drops of humanitarian relief supplies can be used as a last resort, but there are risks
WFP Aviation also undertakes air drops of relief supplies, although these can be complex and dangerous in a conflect zone. Air drops normally require a large clearing area and logistical support on the ground to collect and distribute the relief supplies. In 2017, high altitude air drops were deployed to a besieged city, Dier Ezzor, in Syria for several months. Air drops to other besieged areas in Syria, however, were not feasible due to the potential risks to aircraft flying across rebel-held areas.
The European Commission funds two humanitarian air services, ECHO Flight in DR Congo, Kenya, Mali and Uganda and the EU Flight in Somalia. ECHO Flight, which is managed by the EC’s DG ECHO (Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid) charters six aircraft (two DH Dash 8-100s and four Cessna Grand Caravans) from DAC Aviation, a Kenyan-based charter operator with its main headquarters in Canada. The EU Flight provides services between Nairobi in Kenya to and within Somalia. Both services focus primarily on passenger traffic although some smaller relief supplies are also carried. ECHO Flight is a free service for all aid workers although priority is given to those working on EU-funded humanitarian projects. The EU Flight is managed by the EC’s DG DEVCO (Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development) with priority for staff working on EU-funded development projects.
Other humanitarian air services include those funded by Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) and by ICRC (the International Committee for the Red Cross). MAF is a Christian-based charity which was originally established in the US in 1946. The service globally has around 59 light aircraft serving in 27 countries. In 2017. MAF carried some 77,657 passengers and 2,149 tonnes of cargo to some 639 destinations in sub-Saharan Africa, SE Asia and Australasia. The funding for the service (US$35.3m in 2017) is raised by a combination of donations from major institutions, trusts and individuals.