03 Apr Air Serv Begins Operations in Central African Republic Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
Entebbe, Uganda. An Air Serv aircraft is on the ground in Bangui, Central African Republic (CAR) to support humanitarian operations there. The program is expected to be short term until it can be taken over by the French organization, Aviation Sans Frontieres (ASF). However, border closings are quickly impacting the movement of aircraft and crew from country to country, increasing the likelihood of extension.
The Air Serv team arrived in CAR with the expectation of remaining for the next thirty days, but is prepared to continue the program should conditions deteriorate and the ASF crew is unable to enter the country. “Emergency response waits for nothing. If anything, services are needed now more than ever,” says Air Serv CEO, Stu Willcuts. “The world is facing challenges never before seen, but we are determined to continue providing support as long as we are able.”
The program is operating as part of a network providing air transport services to nongovernmental agencies and humanitarian organizations working within the region. Relief organizations, and especially healthcare providers, are under extreme strain as the virus begins to spread through the country. Six confirmed cases had been reported as of March 31, although the number is not widely considered accurate due to a shortage of tests and is expected to increase quickly.
CAR is heavily dependent on outside assistance, with an estimated 70% of healthcare provided by nonprofit aid organizations. The inability to transport cargo and personnel into the country due to border closings could have catastrophic effects. The Norwegian Refugee Council reports that currently, only three ventilators are available to the population of nearly five million people. Air Serv is working alongside other aid organizations to source and deliver supplies amid worldwide suspension of international commercial flights, as an increasing number of countries are permitting the arrival and departure of humanitarian cargo flights only.
Air Serv aircraft are the bridge connecting lifesaving aid with those who need it most. The organization is urgently requesting donations and pledges as it responds to this unprecedented crisis. Donor-supplemented programs will facilitate the delivery of desperately needed supplies, and permit partner organizations to focus the bulk of their budgets where they will have the most impact, providing healthcare, shelter, food, and sanitation. Donations can be made through the Air Serv website at www.airserv.org.