PIA flight carrying WHO aid lands in Mazar-i-Sharif
Flight took essential supplies in line with Pakistan’s role of making ‘humanitarian air bridge’
As part of the ‘humanitarian air bridge,’ the special cargo flight of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) carrying medical supplies of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday landed in Mazar-i-Sharif.
The PK-234 (Boeing 777 AP-BHV) flew from Dubai and landed at the Mazar-i-Sharif Airport – the first international flight to Afghanistan’s fourth-largest city after the Taliban takeover.
The WHO said that the plane was carrying 12.5 tonnes of supplies that will be delivered to 40 health facilities in 29 provinces across the country.
The supplies – which include trauma and emergency kits – are enough to cover the basic needs of more than 200,000 people, help conduct 3,500 surgical procedures and treat 6,500 trauma patients, WHO added.
“After days of non-stop work to find a solution... we have now been able to partially replenish stocks of health facilities in Afghanistan,” WHO regional director for the eastern Mediterranean Ahmed Al-Mandhari said.
“Humanitarian agencies such as WHO have faced enormous challenges in sending life-saving supplies to Afghanistan in recent weeks due to security and logistics constraints,” Al-Mandhari added.
He further thanked Pakistan, which provided the plane for the delivery.
It was the first of three flights planned with Pakistan International Airlines, and the WHO said it is working to ensure “this week's shipment is the first of many”.
As PIA is providing air transport for the operation, the WHO will be arranging logistics on the ground.
“Because of the shortage of medicines, the Afghan brethren are in great difficulty. In such a situation, the purpose of the cargo plane is to assist the United Nations as much as possible to alleviate the shortage of medicines in Afghanistan,” the PIA spokesperson was quoted as saying in a statement.
The spokesperson added that a PIA operations team has also been sent for flight loading and land operations. The team was led by Special Assistant to the PIA CEO Air Vice Marshal Amir Hayat.
The statement read that PIA CEO Air Marshal Arshad Malik appreciated the team for the successful mission and taking care of relevant arrangements on the ground. He also thanked the foreign minister and secretary.
“The PIA flight is part of Pakistan’s humanitarian and international assistance. Pakistan will continue its support for Afghanistan’s health and stability,” Malik said, “It’s part of PIA’s tradition to participate in the country’s service, national interest, and humanitarian assistance.”
The PIA CEO added that the airline would continue to work as needed.
The statement further read that the national flag carrier would continue a "human-friendly mission" on the special directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan and Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar.
Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmed Khan confirmed that the PIA cargo flight took essential supplies of WHO to Mazar-i-Sharif in line with the country’s role of making a ‘humanitarian air bridge’ in coordination with international agencies.
“First PIA Cargo flight with WHO medical supplies from Islamabad to Mazar-i-Sharif today,” the envoy said in a tweet on Monday. He also thanked the national flag carrier for its efforts in ensuring the supplies to Afghanistan.
“A humanitarian air bridge for essential supplies to Afghanistan in coordination with international agencies. Thanx PIA,” he wrote.
In view of the medical supplies running out within days in Afghanistan, the World Health Organization (WHO) had announced last week to establish an air bridge into the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif with the help of Pakistani authorities.
Trauma kits and emergency supplies for hospitals, as well as medicines for treating chronic malnutrition in children, are among priority items for Afghanistan, where 18 million people depend on aid, the WHO’s regional emergency director had said during a UN briefing.
“What remains certain is that humanitarian needs are enormous and growing,” Rick Brennan had said.
(WITH INPUT FROM AFP)