Cargo at RAF Brize Norton ready to be loaded onto an aircraft destined for Nepal on 27 May 2021. Credit: RAF.
As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across Nepal, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Cross Societies (IFRC) earlier this month announced that urgent international support is needed to prevent a worsening humanitarian crisis in South Asian countries. Many of the country’s hospitals are overflowing with patients and towns near the border of India have been unable to treat the increasing number of cases.
The capacity to provide adequate care for these cases is severely limited in Nepal, which only has 840 ventilators across the country and about 1500 intensive care unit beds for patients. In response to a global call for assistance from the Nepalese government, the United Kingdom has sent 260 ventilators and 2000 pieces of personal protective equipment, sourced from surplus UK stock, along with medical experts to Nepal to help the country continue their fight against COVID-19.
“We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Nepali friends, and this package of support will save lives and help to meet some of the country’s most acute needs,” noted UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
Palladium’s Humanitarian and Stabilisation Operations Team (HSOT) was asked by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to coordinate the delivery of supplies, including 130 BPAP and 130 CPAP machines from the UK Department of Health and Social Care to Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city on a UK Ministry of Defence chartered passenger plane. The flight, which departed Royal Air Force (RAF) base Brize Norton on the 27 May, arrived into Kathmandu on 28 May, delivering 3 tonnes of medical items.
Partnering to Procure Life-Saving Supplies
Alex Franklin, Senior Supply Chain Manager, HSOT Procurement and Logistics team notes the importance of the team’s capabilities in working closely with partners across the UK. “This is another example of when the Procurement and Logistics team have successfully worked with other UK Government partners to deliver critical support to assist with alleviating the suffering caused by COVID19.”
The HSOT Procurement and Logistics team were involved with coordinating all the deliveries from five separate warehouses to the teams at RAF Brize Norton, as well as linking with the Ministry of Defence team that had chartered the aircraft whilst keeping the Nepalese Ministry of Health and Population informed of the cargo detail.
As with all urgent freight movements, there were operational challenges to overcome as last-minute details were settled, and one member from the Procurement and Logistics team was deployed to RAF Brize Norton to work alongside two separate RAF teams to collect the necessary cargo information as required for regulations, and at the same time identified and facilitated the return of items that had been over-delivered by a Department of Health and Social Care supplier.
This isn’t the first time since the beginning of the pandemic that HSOT has worked on procuring life-saving equipment for countries struggling to contain COVID-19, notes Franklin. “The team have previously been involved with delivering COVID-19 relief to Saint Helena, coordinating the delivery of a field hospital to Ghana for the World Food Programme, as well as delivering Oxygen Generators to Bangladesh.”
The intention is that these 260 devices and their ancillary items will be distributed to numerous hospitals across Nepal to assist with overcoming the massive spike currently overwhelming healthcare capacity. As of 19 May, Nepal has confirmed the presence of the Indian variant of COVID-19, which is reportedly up to 50 percent more transmissible than other strains, making the situation in Nepal all the more dire.
As reports out of Nepal indicate an increasingly worsening situation, the UK has pledged to support the country in its fight against COVID-19. “We will continue to work with the Nepalese government and do all we can to provide further support as needed,” added Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock.