Humanitarian air bridge: First PIA flight with medical supplies lands in Mazar-i-Sharif

MAZAR-I-SHARIF: A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight carrying medical essentials from the World Health Organization (WHO) landed in Mazar-i-Sharif Monday.

The PK-234 flew from Dubai and landed at the Mazar-i-Sharif Airport – the first international flight to the country’s fourth-largest city after the Taliban swept Afghanistan, according to state-run Associated Press of Pakistan.

The national flag carrier is providing air transport for the operation while WHO will be arranging logistics on the ground as part of the humanitarian bridge in the war-torn country.

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 Pakistan’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 Sharif today,” the envoy tweeted and thanked PIA 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 global health watchdog had announced last week to establish an air bridge in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif with help from Pakistani authorities.

Trauma kits and emergency supplies for hospitals and medicines for treating chronic malnutrition in children are among priority items required for Afghanistan where 18 million people depend on aid, the WHO’s regional emergency director had said.

“What remains certain is that humanitarian needs are enormous and growing,” Rick Brennan told a UN briefing.

“Right now because of security concerns and several other operational considerations, Kabul airport is not going to be an option for the next week at least,” he had said.

“One of the problems we have in Afghanistan right now is that there is no civil aviation authority functioning, but we are working with Pakistan particularly in the context of the Mazar-i-Sharif airport. Because they can work with contacts on the ground so that all the necessary steps to land an aircraft, to land a cargo aircraft, can be put in place,” Brennan had said.

Insurance rates for flying into Afghanistan had “skyrocketed at prices we have never seen before” in the 12 hours since the blast, the official had said.

“So we are trying to jump through that hoop at the moment and once we have addressed that we will hopefully be airborne in the next 48 to 72 hours.”