Faced with a humanitarian emergency, Première Urgence Internationale charters a plane full of medicines to Afghanistan
Nearly 100 tons of medicines and medical equipment have been sent by plane to Kabul mid-December in a country where there is a shortage of medicines and where the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate.
The cargo plane for Afghanistan arrived in Kabul in mid-December with medicines, nutritional inputs and medical equipment (credit: Première Urgence Internationale)
200 pallets of medicines and medical equipment for a volume of approximately 100 tons: the plane chartered by Première Urgence Internationale arrived in Kabul on Sunday, December 19, with the largest shipment sent since the beginning of our intervention in Afghanistan in 1979. “Given the rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation and the shortage of medicines in the country, this crucial aid will allow us to provide vulnerable communities with the health care they need”, rejoices Justyna Bajer, head of mission of Première Urgence Internationale.
Food insecurity and malnutrition
This aid is all the more necessary as the humanitarian situation in the country is extremely worrying. “We are seeing an increase in the number of children suffering from malnutrition and respiratory infections in our health facilities,” says Justyna Bajer. The freezing winter conditions are worsening, which could lead to an increase in the frequency and severity of respiratory infections that has already begun. In addition, nearly 23 million people – more than half of the population – are acutely food insecure and one million children are at risk of suffering from the most severe form of malnutrition. At a time when more than 18 million people in Afghanistan are in need of health assistance, the majority of funding has been stopped since the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IAA) came to power. Financial assets also remain frozen, resulting in disruptions to vital health services.
Reaching patients in remote areas
The medicines sent to Afghanistan will allow medical staff to complete the treatment of malnourished children, in order to quickly improve their nutritional status and reduce the risk of further complications. These medicines and equipment will be delivered to Première Urgence Internationale’s fixed and mobile health structures, including trauma first aid stations and maternal, neonatal and child health departments. In all, nearly 500,000 people in the east and southeast of the country will benefit, especially in the remote areas where Première Urgence Internationale facilities are mostly located. Our staff provides nutritional advice, trauma care and maternal and child health care.
Ensuring the availability of care
Access to quality health care remains a major concern for rural and remote communities in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is on the verge of economic collapse, with nearly 70 percent of the population living below the poverty line. Most families cannot even afford to pay for transportation to the nearest health facility. To access health services, people often have to travel for several hours, sometimes in dangerous conditions that expose them to additional health risks. Ensuring the availability of quality primary health care for rural and remote communities in Afghanistan is the primary concern of Première Urgence Internationale.
Chartering a plane to Afghanistan: a logistics challenge
“Since the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan took control of the country, there is no longer direct air commercial solutions, which slows down the delivery of medicines to Kabul and the provinces,” recalls Charlotte Courtois, Purchasing/Shipping Manager at Première Urgence Internationale, who organized this transport. The medicines and medical equipment came from five European suppliers and were gathered in a warehouse in Maastricht where they were placed on special pallets to be loaded onto the plane on two floors. Another logistics challenge was to maintain a temperature between 15 and 25 degrees in order to store the medicines safely.
Medicines, nutritional inputs and medical equipment were gathered in this warehouse in Maastricht, the Netherlands (credit: Première Urgence Internationale)
Several actors have allowed the success of this operation: Bioport (organization that has been providing logistical support to solidarity actors since 1994) for its help in the research and the provision of transport solutions and the coordination of the operation, ACS (Organizer and coordinator of charter flights), Geo Sky (airline) as well as the airport of Maastricht for the organization, the preparation and the loading of this flight.
Beyond this operation, Première Urgence Internationale was able to transport approximately 60 tons of medicines, equipment and nutritional inputs between February and December 2022 thanks to RHL Coop (a cooperative that brings together 10 humanitarian organizations working on the humanitarian supply chain and operational logistics) and via flights of the humanitarian airlift (EUHAB) with the financial support of the Civil Protection and European Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO). This has allowed us to ensure a steady supply to our mission in Afghanistan and allow activities to continue on the ground until further deliveries are made.