A massive cargo plane carrying parts of a field hospital touched down in Ghana on Thursday in support of a UN mission to protect aid workers from the coronavirus in West Africa.
A video posted by David Beasley, director of the UN’s World Food Programme, showed crucial supplies being offloaded from the C-17 Globemaster, which has been given to the pandemic relief effort by the UAE.
Mr Beasley said Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, had been supportive of his call for an "air bridge" of humanitarian assistance between WFP's regional hub and struggling African nations. "I picked up the phone and called His Highness, saying, 'brother, we need help. People are suffering," Mr Beasley said. "This in-kind contribution will save many, many lives. He did not blink an eye, and immediately said we will help.
"People of the UAE and the leadership, Mohamed bin Zayed, my dear brother, thank you for the kindness of your heart to help people save lives!"
The UAE is working in partnership with WFP to establish an international air bridge operation that will provide a lifeline of essential health and humanitarian supplies to nations around the world grappling with the impact of Covid-19.
The UAE has dedicated a fleet of three aircraft to enable the movement of life-saving cargo and personnel until the end of the year. Dwarfed by the cavernous opening of the aircraft’s cargo bay, Mr Beasley thanked the UAE government, donors and the Ghanaian government in Accra for their help in setting up a regional hospital to help fight the pandemic.
He said “special thanks” were reserved for the UAE government for providing the aircraft.
“This piece of equipment, this C-17, is a result of the kindness of the UAE,” Mr Beasley said.
The WFP could begin its life-saving work in the region “because of the generosity of our donors”, he said.
“This is going to be a regional hub, not just for the field hospital but also passengers and air cargo, so that we can provide supplies all over western Africa,” Mr Beasley said.
This month he warned up to 300,000 people could starve to death every day if the coronavirus crisis broke food supply chains.
Because of the pandemic, 2020 could be remembered as the deadliest year for humanity since the Second World War, Mr Beasley said.
The C-17, made by Boeing in the United States, is a transport aircraft used by militaries around the world, including the UAE Armed Forces, Britain’s Royal Air Force and the US Air Force.
In service since the mid-1990s, the four-engine aircraft can take off with more than 77 tonnes of cargo.
In 2007, its cost was about $218 million (Dh800m).