Emergency kits for skin grafts and basic bone surgery are part of 24.5 tonnes of medical aid being sent by the World Health Organisation from its logistics hub in Dubai on Tuesday to assist victims of the earthquake in Afghanistan.
The $330,000 worth of aid was loaded on to lorries at WHO warehouses in Dubai's International Humanitarian City (IHC) on Monday and was then flown to Kabul on Tuesday night.
From there, it will be distributed to assist people in the eastern provinces of Khost and Paktika where a 6.1-magnitude earthquake last Wednesday killed more than 1,000, injured at least 1,400 and left thousands homeless.
"Reports indicate that this is the deadliest earthquake in two decades, further compounding the alarming humanitarian situation in Afghanistan," said Giuseppe Saba, chief executive of IHC. "The IHC, under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is accelerating the rapid response of the international humanitarian community as it rallies to come to the aid of those impacted by the disaster."
It includes non-communicable disease (NCD) kits and testing equipment for cholera, the potentially fatal gastrointestinal infection that officials fear could spread rapidly amid a lack of safe water supplies and proper sanitation.
“We are in co-ordination minute-by-minute with our team in Afghanistan, who are the ones who requested the items. Once the items have arrived … the charter will be offloaded immediately and lorries will be ready to take the different supplies to clinics and hospitals in Afghanistan,” Nivien Attalla, operational manager of the WHO Logistics Hub in Dubai, told The National as the aid was being loaded.
This is the WHO's first shipment from Dubai for the earthquake victims, but only a small part of the global relief efforts carried out by the UN agency and the IHC.
“Last year we shipped to 129 countries, which means we're a global responder,” Ms Attalla said. “Most of the shipments go to the EMRO region — that is, Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, Pakistan and Somalia, which are among the top countries we're responding to.”
Tuesday's shipment of aid is likely to be followed by more, Mr Saba said.
“Once a full assessment of the situation is done, everybody knows there’ll be a second wave of humanitarian aid that will be moved,” he said.
Afghanistan is currently the IHC's number one priority, Mr Saba said.
“Many organisations that we host in IHC are working around the clock to mobilise resources, and we are co-ordinating with them to provide all the required support to transport relief from our warehouses into Afghanistan. Time is of the essence, and Dubai and the UAE’s leadership consider a swift response a humanitarian duty to save lives.”
“As of today, Afghanistan is the first country that’s being served by the IHC community, while the second one is Yemen and then number three, we have the critical situation in Europe with the Ukraine crisis,” he said.
In a year, the IHC sends out about 1,000 to 1,300 shipments.
“As of today we’re almost at 400 shipments through IHC [this year]”, Mr Saba said.
“IHC is the largest humanitarian hub in the world with 80 different organisations.”
Besides WHO, others include the World Food Programme, the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) and Unicef (United Nations Children's Fund), Mr Saba said.
Last week, the UAE sent food, aid and medical supplies to Afghanistan after President Sheikh Mohamed ordered an air bridge to be established for the relief effort.
A medical team and field hospital were also sent to south-east Afghanistan, state news agency Wam reported.
Afghanistan is also suffering from an economic crisis, a drought reducing crop yields and a food crisis made worse by the Russian war in Ukraine, which has hit wheat exports across the world.
These problems, as well as the recent earthquake, have taken their toll on Afghans who have been struggling to find jobs and make ends meet through decades of conflict.
Speaking to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), unemployed lorry driver Ahmad Siar said: “I am always thinking about how to support my family of six children. This is not only about me but all Afghans.”
“Despite these challenges, we have to be hopeful,” he said.