European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

Service tools

Humanitarian air services

© European Union/ECHO/Romain Gaudochon

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), and Mali. The service is free of charge for humanitarian partners and aid organisations.

In addition to running its own fleet of aircraft in insecure zones, the European Commission supports some existing not-for-profit air operators. On top of the routine flights, the EU finances ad-hoc flights to support humanitarian operations during big emergencies. For example, it has funded the transportation of humanitarian supplies and workers by the UN's Humanitarian Air Services in Syria, South Sudan and Ethiopia. It also contracted cargo aircraft to deliver life-saving aid to conflict-ridden Central African Republic, Ukraine and to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis

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


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