By John Okeke
The European Union (EU) and the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) have cooperated on three EU Humanitarian Air Bridge (EU HAB) flights destined for Abuja, transporting 52 metric tons of medical equipment and vital health supplies to support the COVID-19 response in Nigeria.
The COVID-19 pandemic risks exacerbating humanitarian needs, also in Nigeria, where there are 7.9 million people in need of urgent humanitarian aid in the North-East.
Humanitarians have already scaled up their response in reaction to the new challenges, and in line with the national COVID-19 Response Plan, through medical case management, setting up hand washing stations, quarantine shelters, and providing food assistance to people in need.
“It is in all our interest to come together in an urgent and coordinated response to this pandemic and it is in this spirit that the EU and WFP are cooperating to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to Nigeria, and other parts of the world, in these challenging times This urgently needed humanitarian cargo is paramount to help prevent, contain and treat COVID-19 which threatens every country’s population, worldwide,” said Thomas Conan, who heads the EU’s Humanitarian Aid Operations office in Nigeria.
“I am very pleased with the collaboration with the Federal Government of Nigeria and the EU at this difficult time to bring in supplies to support the wider efforts to address COVID-19,” said Paul Howe, WFP Representative and Country Director in Nigeria.
The EU is one of the lead contributors of humanitarian aid in Nigeria. It provides assistance to cover the vital needs of the most vulnerable internally displaced people and host communities in the country. Since 2014, the EU has allocated over €275 million in humanitarian aid to people in need in Nigeria, including €33.8 million in 2020. The EU has moreover supported the Government of Nigeria to respond to the pandemic through a contribution of €50 million aimed at supporting the Nigeria National COVID-19 Response Plan.
WFP is working in conflict-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe – supporting internally displaced people, returnees, children under the age of five and pregnant or breastfeeding women with life-saving food and nutrition support. WFP is also providing technical support to strengthen Nigeria’s government-led social protection systems and plans to expansion scale up its direct support in areas where COVID-19 threatens to drive up extreme levels of vulnerability.
The European Union Humanitarian Bridge flights, set up at the beginning of May, help aid reach vulnerable people in the current context where movement restrictions are creating critical gaps in the transport of humanitarian aid material and workers. The flights contribute to fill in these gaps, in a manner that complements the UN system.
The three EU HAB flights to Nigeria were organised in cooperation with WFP to help it keep up with the demand for the transport of humanitarian material to Nigeria that was held up due to the unavailability of commercial flights at the moment.