Medical tents and aid on way from Dubai to Delhi as Indian hospitals overflow

The first of three Emirates cargo flights will carry equipment to allow hospitals to expand

A plane carrying more than 12 tonnes of medical equipment and relief items will leave Dubai on Thursday to help India’s struggling hospitals treat thousands of Covid-19 patients.

Tents and diagnostic equipment worth hundreds of thousands of dirhams will be among the first batch of supplies.

The shipment, the first of three in the next week, is part of an Emirates initiative to offer cargo free of charge to NGOs to help to stem the surge of Covid-19 cases in India.

It will leave Dubai International Airport carrying mainly multipurpose tents, worth an estimated $10,000 each.

The tents will increase patient and staff capacity near hospitals located in nine cities in India by 4,500 square metres.

“Today at International Humanitarian City in Dubai we are loading 12.6 tonnes of items, which will be sent to Delhi later this week,” said Robert Blanchard, logistics and supply operations manager for the World Health Organisation in Dubai.

“There is a huge demand for space at hospitals in India right now, many are at capacity, so this cargo, which is mainly tents, will help increase capacity.

“We are regularly analysing where the demand is for items and will send additional aid to the country in the coming weeks.

“Initiatives like this allow NGOs to save hundreds of thousands on transportation costs, meaning they can redirect it to clinical needs and procure medical supplies.”

Jehad Abdulmaula, logistics and supply chain expert at IHC in Dubai, shows media the refrigeration facilities which stores medicine destined for India. Antonie Robertson / The National

The first batch of aid is being supplied by the WHO. Teams will work around the clock over the next few days to prepare the packages at warehouses in International Humanitarian City, where dozens of aid agencies are based.

Future cargo will include oxygen cylinders, PPE and diagnostic equipment.

As India's devastating Covid-19 crisis has mounted in recent weeks, countries around the world have been sending emergency medical supplies to help curb the virus.

Daily coronavirus deaths in the country have topped 4,000 in recent days as the pandemic intensified in the world’s worst-hit nation.

Robert Blanchard, Logistics & Supply Operations Manager, WHO and Nabil Sultan, Divisional Senior Vice President, Emirates Skycargo. Antonie Robertson / The National

Hospitals continue to be overrun across the country, with oxygen supplies running short due to a sudden surge in demand. Experts fear official data is grossly underestimated.

The country now accounts for nearly half of the world's new known cases and its death toll stands at more than 240,000.

Nabil Sultan, divisional senior vice president of Emirates SkyCargo, said it stands committed with the people of India.

“Hearing about serious Covid-19 situation in India has been hard. The country is going through an extremely difficult situation,” he said.

“India and Emirates go a long way and we have had a strong relationship with the country almost since the inception of the airline.

“We have established this relief air bridge between the two to offer cargo capacity to all humanitarian agencies, free-of-charge.

“Where we are located means we can provide emergency equipment and items to India, quickly.”

Emirates will offer cargo capacity on an “as available” basis on all of its cargo flights to nine cities in India. Initial efforts will focus on sending out aid from NGOs with local bases, but the initiative is open to agencies based overseas too.

Three flights have so far been scheduled to fly aid into the country on May 13, 15 and 16.

In the past weeks, Emirates SkyCargo has already transported medicines and medical equipment on scheduled and charter cargo flights to India.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the airline has operated a number of passenger carriers as cargo planes, with 90 currently being flown around the world for import and export services.

Updated: May 9, 2021 06:10 PM

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