The first of a series of Royal Air Force flights taking medical supplies to Africa to help fight the coronavirus pandemic departed on June 27.
The RAF C-17 took off from RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire on a journey funded by the Department For International Development. The transport aircraft was carrying a field hospital, which will be used for frontline aid workers in Africa. Aid workers are playing a crucial role in West Africa working to improve health systems, prevent the spread of coronavirus and save lives.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The RAF and NATO are always here to help our Allies, friends and those in need around the world. I’m proud that while dealing with COVID-19 we have the generosity of spirit to provide such support to Ghana and other countries.”
The RAF response follows a request to the UK by the United Nations (UN) to NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Relief Coordination Centre. The UN is leading global logistics efforts to make sure medical supplies reach those who need them most during the pandemic. With commercial flights disrupted and the cost of cargo flights having escalated, the UK’s support is crucial.
The field hospital is from the UK aid funded UN agency the World Food Programme (WFP) which has capacity to care for 92 people medevaced from the region. The UK has previously announced £15 million of support to the WFP to support its coronavirus response.
International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “These flights will play a crucial role in the global battle against coronavirus, helping to stop the spread of the disease globally. Aid workers are on the frontline of the coronavirus response, and it is critical they are protected so they can continue their life-saving work. This is the best of British – the UK military and UK aid – working together to solve a global problem for the benefit of all of us. No one is safe until we are all safe.”
The field hospital, which weighs approximately 130 tonnes, the equivalent of seven buses, will be transported to Accra in up to five flights. WFP will then arrange for it to be built to support the coronavirus response where the need is most.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: “NATO Allies are working together to address the COVID-19 pandemic, and to support our partners. Last month, NATO agreed to support the UN’s global call for airlift assistance. I warmly welcome that the United Kingdom is the first NATO Ally to come forward with an aid flight, delivering supplies to build a field hospital in Ghana. This is a concrete demonstration of solidarity in action – NATO Allies stepping up to save lives.”
Operated by 99 Squadron, the C-17 Globemaster is the RAF’s long-range, heavy-lift strategic transport aircraft that can operate close to a potential area of operations for combat, peacekeeping or humanitarian missions worldwide. Assisting the loading process were personnel from 4624 Royal Auxillary Air Force Squadron, providing a valuable contribution to the RAF global humanitarian effort at the end of Armed Forces Week that celebrated Reserves Day on Wednesday.