Sunday, 28th May 2023

Humanitarian crises and succour: Why aviation deserves more from governments

By Wole Oyebade
28 April 2023   |   1:42 am
Beyond a commercial concern, the air transport industry plays a critical role in alleviating human suffering, to warrant better recognition and support from governments.

IATA’s Director General, Willie Walsh

Beyond a commercial concern, the air transport industry plays a critical role in alleviating human suffering, to warrant better recognition and support from governments.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) held that position recently, reminding stakeholders of the critical role aviation plays in times of natural disasters and humanitarian crises.

IATA, a clearing house for over 280 world airlines, drew attention to the contributions of aviation in bringing relief to earthquake victims in Turkey, the Russia-Ukraine crisis, COVID-19, and most recently, the implosion in Sudan.

On the local front, a local airline, Air Peace, has been most prominent in such critical moments, offering free evacuation services to Nigerians that are stranded in troubled regions. Stakeholders are unanimous that a national carrier could not have done better.

IATA’s Director General, Willie Walsh, reckoned that when crises strike, aviation is always there. He said: “Connectivity is essential to get aid and first responders to where they are needed. The response to the recent earthquake in Southern Türkiye, and Syria was no exception. Airlines helped save lives in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. And airlines continue to help accelerate the recovery with vital cargo shipments,” Walsh said.

While there is no comprehensive tabulation of the support that aviation provided, a limited review of 29 key carriers serving the Türkiye market reveals an impressive relief effort. These airlines delivered over 3,500 tonnes of aid from over 90 countries, operated over 350 relief and repatriation flights to affected areas, and provided transport for over 130,000 responders from across the world.

Also, critical supplies delivered included winter jackets, blankets, toilets, hygiene articles, food, fire guards’ equipment, power generators, tents, water distribution ramps, flashlights, sleeping bags, and medical supplies, among other items.

Airlink provides a good example of how the aviation sector responds to crises. It is a non-profit organisation that coordinates donated airline resources and NGO needs in times of humanitarian disaster. Working with its NGO and airline partners, Airlink has coordinated the transport of 1,000 tonnes of aid supplies to the affected area, with an additional pipeline of 300 tonnes.

Walsh said: “Every day airlines make an enormous positive contribution to humanity by connecting people, cultures, businesses and economies. This fosters economic growth and social development. When disaster strikes, these links become even more critical. Everyone in aviation can be proud of the essential supplies, critical talent and hope that planes carry to disaster-affected areas.

“With that in mind, we encourage all our stakeholders to join us in ensuring that aviation can fulfill this role by becoming ever more safe, secure, reliable and sustainable.

“Airlines have shown exceptional compassion and solidarity, delivering vital supplies and aid to affected communities around the world. During crises, we bring hope, relief, and aid, striving to rebuild lives together. I am proud to be part of an industry that makes such a difference,” Walsh said.

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