Africa, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

Ethiopia hosts air hub for UN-initiated virus response

Ethiopia Airlines will distribute medical supplies across African continent to assist countries’ COVID-19 combat

Addis Getachew   | 14.04.2020
Ethiopia hosts air hub for UN-initiated virus response

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia

The Ethiopian government and the UN’s food body Tuesday launched a hub inside an international airport in the capital Addis Ababa to distribute livesaving supplies across the African continent against COVID-19.

The joint program was launched at the Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics Services, a division of Ethiopian Airlines, in the Bole International Airport.

Officials of the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN’s World Food Program and the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were in attendance of the launching ceremony.

Ethiopian Airlines cargo service has been distributing 260 tons of supplies against coronavirus donated by Chinese billionaire and entrepreneur Jack Ma for Africa.

“We distributed the first consignment of 100 tons within six days across 45 African countries,” Fitsum Abadi, managing director of Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics Services, said. “That together with our state-of-the-art Cargo capacity gave UN confidence in our efficiency.”

On Monday, the first batch of 50 tons of medical supplies dispatched by the WHO for Africa’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic arrived in Addis Ababa to be distributed across Africa.

WHO Country Director for Ethiopia Boreima H. Sambo said the supplies to be distributed across the continent include masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, and personal protective equipment.

“These materials really are lifesaving now that almost all African countries are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

Ethiopian Airlines, which had already revealed a $550 million revenues loss from passenger services due to the pandemic, would now secure substantial revenues, according to Fitsum.

“From this first consignment distribution alone, we expect to get more than $10 million in revenues,” he said, adding that the main target of the airlines is to assist the continent-wide fight against the coronavirus.

Ethiopian Airlines, he said, will be using 10 Boeing 777, each with a capacity of 100 tons, and two Boeing 737-800 each can carry 22 tons, in the operation to supply African countries with the humanitarian aid donated by the UN agencies, he said.

On his part, Steven Were Omamo, representative of WFP to Ethiopia, said: “We are pleased to have Ethiopian Airlines and its cargo hub in this endeavor of delivering most needed equipment that will help African countries better respond to the pandemic.”

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Deputy Director of the Africa CDC Ahmed E. Ogwell Ouma said: “This particular solidarity flights are very important […] and we will make sure the supplies reach all the continent.”

Lockdowns across the continent made it difficult to move supplies, he said, adding supplies against COVID-19 were not easy to get.

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