ISLAMABAD: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flew its first cargo plane with essential medical supplies of the World Health Organisation (WHO) to Afghanistan on Monday to facilitate humanitarian efforts in the war-torn country.
To facilitate aid agencies in their efforts, a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane flew from Islamabad to Mazar-e-Sharif after “coordinating with international agencies” Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmed Khan said in a tweet on Monday.
Khan tweeted, “First PIA Cargo flight with WHO medical supplies from Islamabad to Mazar Sharif today. A humanitarian air bridge for essential supplies to Afghanistan in coordination with international agencies. Thanx PIA. ”
The first PIA cargo flight follows appeals by aid agencies, including the World Health Organization (WHO), which said last week that hundreds of tons of medical supplies, including surgical equipment, due to be delivered to Afghanistan, were stuck due to commercial flight restrictions at the Kabul airport.
Pakistan has been at the forefront of humanitarian efforts for Afghanistan, launching special PIA flights to Kabul a day after the Taliban captured the Afghan capital on August 15 to help European countries and international organisations evacuate their nationals and employees.
Talking to reporters last week, WHO regional emergency director Dr Richard Brennan said the Kabul airport restrictions had added to challenges faced by the agency in delivering aid and essential supplies to thousands of Afghans affected by the crisis.
“One of the challenges we have in Afghanistan right now is there’s no Civil Aviation Authority functioning. But we are working with the Pakistanis, particularly in the context of Mazar-i-Sharif Airport, because they can work with contacts on the ground to ensure that all the necessary steps to land an aircraft, to land a cargo aircraft, can be put in place,” Brennan said.
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) has said it is trying to establish a “humanitarian air bridge” from Islamabad as well, with “flights expected to take off soon.”
In a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad on Thursday, WFP Executive Director David M Beasley discussed Islamabad’s role in facilitating the WFP’s efforts in providing food assistance to the Afghans. – TLTP