Cargo for COVID

World Food Programme
World Food Programme Insight
5 min readMar 16, 2021


Voices from the field share how WFP’s Common Services supported the response to the pandemic

WFP staff supervise the loading of health cargo to support the COVID-19 response at the Humanitarian Response Hub in Liège, Belgium. WFP/Valentin Bianchi

As global transport markets stalled due to government measures to curb the spread of the virus, WFP’s COVID-19 Global Common Services provided a logistical lifeline to the humanitarian and health response during the pandemic.

Thanks to a network of eight strategically-located hubs and air links that connect global supply chain, WFP has been able to transport nearly 150,000 m3 of critical medical and humanitarian cargo to 173 countries around the world on behalf of 73 organizations.

This impressive feat was made possible by the generous support of WFP donors. Below, we hear from organizations and staff involved in the response and learn how funds from donors such as the European Union have helped us make a difference and save thousands of lives.

Sandra Lattouf, UNICEF Representative in Burkina Faso

“Thanks to a WFP-operated cargo flight, UNICEF was able to deliver critical medical equipment, including oxygen concentrators, laser thermometers, surgical masks, and medicine, to support the Burkina Faso government response against the COVID-19 pandemic. The collaboration between our two agencies is a testament to how the humanitarian world can come together to meet the needs of national health authorities and the country’s health centers when it matters most.”

Jean-Francois Milhaud, Head of WFP’s Liège Hub

“There was such a tremendous rush to get the Liège Hub set up and operating — in fact, we sent our first cargo plane the same day we arrived. We knew we needed to move quickly to get the supplies needed to fight the pandemic out to the countries that needed them, while also ensuring that we could keep cargo moving for existing humanitarian operations. It has made me proud to see the critical role Europe has played in the humanitarian response around the world, especially when we ourselves were experiencing the effects of the virus so strongly.”

These images show the loading in Liège, Belgium (L) and the arrival in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso (R) of the first flight of WFP’s COVID-19 Common Services in May 2020. The flight carried 16 mt of medical cargo and personal protective equipment on behalf of UNICEF and ICRC to support their responses to the pandemic. Credits: Pixel Prod (L) and WFP Photo Library (R)

Chris Kibet, Logistics Coordinator, International Medical Corps, Somalia

“WFP Common Services really helped International Medical Corps effectively deal with a situation where quality personal protective equipment (PPE) items were not available in sufficient quantities in the Somalia market. The WFP team’s assistance was key to storing appropriate quality PPE items purchased by International Medical Corps at the UNHRD facility in Dubai, and then transporting these items to many of our missions, including Somalia.”

“The team’s timely free-to-user delivery enabled us to use the money we saved to provide even more assistance for our beneficiaries. The final cost of the items delivered to Somalia was in fact much lower when compared to items available in the local market. I’d like to extend our gratitude to all those who contributed to this undertaking. It was very important for International Medical Corps to minimize the exposure to COVID-19 of medical staff, other employees and our beneficiaries through timely distribution of adequate PPE items.”

PPE supplies transported on a WFP Common Services flight arrive at an International Medical Corps warehouse in Mogadishu, Somalia (L) and PPE, purchased with funds from the European Union, lands at Juba International Airport in South Sudan on a WFP Common Services flight (R) Credits: International Medical Corps (L) and WFP/Karolina Greda (R)

Katja Hildebrand, Logistics Cluster Coordinator, Central African Republic

“What would we do without the generous support of our donors? It was very exciting for us to receive these huge cargo aircraft here in Bangui delivering for our partners. Supporting the health and humanitarian community as we took on this mammoth task of trying to fight COVID-19, on top of the already great humanitarian needs here in Central African Republic (CAR), is something that I am grateful to be a part of. Our donors are the reason we were able to bring in these flights, filled with essential health and medical equipment, on behalf of the humanitarian community. In a country that has so little, that made a big difference.”

Paul Ekeya, WHO Operations Support & Logistics, Supply Coordinator, South Sudan

“The support from the European Union has been two-fold for WFP. Not only did this donation help fund the flights to get these vital supplies into the country, it also supported us at the country-level by providing funds to WFP to procure PPE via the UN Supply Portal for the humanitarian community working here in South Sudan. This contribution is vital to providing frontline health workers adequate access to protective equipment, which is key to containing the spread of the virus and ensuring humanitarian programmes in South Sudan can carry on.”

Thank you to all the generous donors who have contributed to WFP’s COVID-19 Global Common Services. Final cargo movements are currently being completed, though WFP retains the ability to stand up its cargo services again should they be needed.

Learn more about the Common Services here.



World Food Programme
World Food Programme Insight

The United Nations World Food Programme works towards a world of Zero Hunger.