Pacific’s first humanitarian air service flight lands in PNG
Countries and territories of the Pacific Islands and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) reached a milestone today with the launch of the humanitarian air service in the region.
The first flight, from Nadi, Fiji, to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, completed this morning, delivered three tonnes of essential medical supplies that will be used in the Government of Papua New Guinea’s response to COVID-19.
The supplies, including protective masks, suits and gloves, thermometers and ventilators were transported on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, in support of the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19 – a regional coordination platform established by the 18 countries of the Forum to facilitate timely and rapid movement of medical and humanitarian assistance across the region.
“The humanitarian air service flights are a welcome demonstration that the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19 is doing what leaders intended - protecting citizens and supporting health systems,” said Dame Meg Taylor, Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General.
“We welcome continued partnership and support as the Pathway provides a mechanism led by and for Pacific nations to help meet their needs while respecting COVID-19 border shutdowns, special entry protocols and safety for our Pacific nations.”
The closure of airports and grounding of aircraft as a result of COVID-19 prevention measures has dramatically reduced commercial air services, placing stress on the region’s supply chains and making it increasingly challenging for humanitarian and health organizations to get vital supplies and personnel to where they are needed most.
Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, Jon Philp, welcomed the Australian-funded flight, saying: “Australia and PNG are there for each other in tough times, and we are proud to support this initiative. We will continue to support the PNG Government’s broad response – including by ensuring vital supplies can reach PNG.”
Jo Pilgrim, Director of WFP Pacific Multi-Country Office, said: “For the countries and territories of the Pacific islands, air and sea transport is nothing short of a lifeline.
“WFP is proud to be working with Pacific Island governments and humanitarian partners to restore certainty to the supply chain and ensure the delivery of urgently-required medical supplies to the frontlines of the pandemic.
“I would like to thank our donors, including the government of Australia, for their continued support to WFP’s operations in the Pacific, and for making this air service a reality.”
The UN Resident Coordinator, Gianluca Rampolla, stated: “The essential medical equipment and PPE that arrived today in Port Moresby as the first delivery within the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway initiative, are here thanks to the outstanding partnership among the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, the UN WFP Pacific Office, the Australian government and Australian High Commissions in Suva and Port Moresby, Fiji Airways, Air Niugini, NAC, our National Control Centre and of course my UN colleagues at WHO and UNICEF.
“This reminds us that our relationships in the Pacific region are strong and through close cooperation and international solidarity, we will continue assisting PNG with medical personnel, the equipment and expertise that will see us through this pandemic, together and stronger.”
The Pacific humanitarian air service is part of the greater Pacific Humanitarian Team COVID-19 Response Plan – a comprehensive regional response plan that seeks to consolidate efforts by UN agencies, governments, regional and multilateral organizations, NGOs, donors and development partners.