Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection

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Humanitarian air services

Why is this important?

Major natural catastrophes such as epidemics, floods and earthquakes often leave thousands of people in need of quick assistance and sometimes rapid evacuation. Often civilians and aid workers are caught-up in conflicts.

Humanitarian air services are often the only way to get access to remote places and reach people in need. Humanitarian flights are a lifeline for millions of vulnerable people around the world. These flights primarily enable life-saving supplies to reach cut-off populations and make it possible for aid workers to access locations that are difficult to reach. They are also used for medical evacuations and for when the security of a situation deteriorates to the extent that aid workers lives are endangered.

How are we helping?

The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) operates a humanitarian air service known as ECHO Flight, operating flights in the African countries of Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mali and Chad. These flights are purely reserved for humanitarian workers and are free of charge. Last year, the service carried over 20 000 passengers and 480 tonnes of cargo in Kenya and DRC alone. 

In addition to running its own fleet of aircraft in insecure zones, ECHO supports existing not-for-profit air operators with some charging a subsidised fee to partly recover flight costs. On top of the routine flights, the EU finances ad-hoc flights to support humanitarian operations during big emergencies. For instance, ECHO has funded the transportation of humanitarian supplies and workers during the Syria crises and is directly contracting cargo aircrafts to deliver much needed and life-saving aid in the conflict affected Central African Republic.

The ability to respond to humanitarian crises quickly is key to preventing loss of lives.


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