An Air Serv aircraft is now on the ground in Bangui, Central African Republic (CAR) to support humanitarian operations there. The programme is expected to be short term until it can be taken over by the French organisation, Aviation Sans Frontieres (ASF). However, border closures are quickly impacting the movement of aircraft and crew from country to country, increasing the likelihood of an extension.
The Air Serv team arrived in CAR with the expectation of remaining for the next 30 days, but is prepared to continue the programme 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 programme is operating as part of a network providing air transport services to non-governmental agencies and humanitarian organisations working within the region. Relief organisations, 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 31 March, 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 per cent of healthcare provided by non-profit aid organisations. The inability to transport cargo and personnel into the country due to border closures could have catastrophic effects. The Norwegian Refugee Council reports that currently only three ventilators are available to a population of nearly five million people. Air Serv is working alongside other aid organisations to source and deliver supplies amid the 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 is urgently requesting donations and pledges as it responds to this unprecedented crisis. Donor-supplemented programmes will facilitate the delivery of desperately needed supplies and permit partner organisations 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 web site.