JOHANNESBURG -- A global emergency delivery service that has kept tons of humanitarian aid flowing despite coronavirus travel restrictions could shut down next month if funding can’t be found to keep it running, the World Food Program warned Friday.
The shortfall comes “just as demand for this service is reaching its peak,” WFP said. Of the $965 million to keep the service going through the end of the year, $178 million has been confirmed.
Closed borders and airports around the world badly wrenched supply chains and stranded humanitarian workers and supplies. While nations that are traditionally the world’s top aid donors were distracted by the growing pandemic, the WFP, the United Nations' logistics leader, heaved the emergency operation into place with unprecedented reach.
The emergency delivery effort involves almost 130 countries, Amer Daoudi, WFP senior director of operations, told The Associated Press.
Without these deliveries, many vulnerable countries will have to take some of the money they're spending on badly needed personal protective equipment and medical supplies and pay for commercial transport — and very little of that is available, Daoudi said.
“We are the lifeline,” he said. Without it, “national capacities across many vulnerable countries across the globe will come to a standstill.”
The emergency delivery service has been key in shipping tons of aid for the pandemic and other crises like HIV and cholera that need drugs and vaccines to keep flowing. The U.N. and various health entities have openly worried about dangerous delays in many countries’ vaccination campaigns, saying the lives of up to 80 million children under the age of 1 could be at risk.
So far, the World Food Program emergency service has completed 375 cargo and passenger flights, delivering more than 2,500 aid workers with “enough cargo to fill 120 jumbo jets waiting to be transported in coming weeks,” the WFP said.
“I think the whole world needs to step up,” Daoudi said. “While everybody's struggling with their own internal issues, we cannot never lose sight of the global issue ... no one is safe inside their borders unless we collectively come together in solidarity to fight this virus.”
He estimated that some 1 million cubic meters of supplies are expected for delivery between July and the end of the year.
“I’ve never been involved in anything like this before. I don’t think any of us have,” Stephen Cahill, WFP’s director of logistics, told the AP in April. “We’re seeing countries taking measures we think aren’t always rational. When you start closing borders, we start to get very nervous.”
He spoke on April 16, when the world had more than 2.1 million coronavirus cases.
On Friday, the number of cases was over 8.5 million, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.
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