As a massive, plastic-wrapped pallet is loaded onto Ethiopian Airlines’ newest 787, it’s nearly impossible to tell at a glance just how critical the contents of these containers will be to the people receiving them.
The boxes hold more than 4,000 pounds (1,800 kilograms) of humanitarian aid that’s being sent to various regions of Africa by three U.S. based non-profit agencies.
One of them is Vital Voices, which was created to identify extraordinary female leaders around the world and support them with their missions.
On this flight, aid including defibrillators and antibiotics is headed to schools and a hospital run by the Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation in Somalia.
“This refugee camp where we’re sending the supplies, they’re in dire need of medication. They’re in dire need of school supplies,” said Dr. Rosie Van Coevorden, Chair of Vital Voices Northwest. “The defibrillators that we’re sending there are something that they’ve never had, hospital grade defibrillators at the hospital. So you can only imagine how many lives they’re going to save with that.”
This is Ethiopian Airlines’ 23rd Humanitarian Delivery Flight with Boeing.
"Ethiopian Airlines continues to be a leader in corporate social responsibility activities in Ethiopia,” Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said. “With this delivery flight, we are also very happy to facilitate the supply of much-needed medical supplies in neighboring Somalia as well.”
Ethiopian Airlines is one of nearly 50 airline customers that participate in Boeing’s Humanitarian Delivery Flight program. Customer airlines open up their cargo holds during delivery flights of brand new aircraft to help ferry much needed aid to regions where the donated supplies can help the most.
“Our organization, Global Corporate Citizenship, is the matchmaker,” explains Liz Warman, Director of Global Corporate Citizenship, NW Region. “A customer says they want to use their brand new airplane for humanitarian aid, then we spring into action and we work with international aid organizations and we evaluate what is needed in country with those experts, and then we fill the plane.”
In 2014, Boeing helped fulfill ten Humanitarian Delivery Flights – including the first ever out of Boeing South Carolina. The flights have helped transform lives with precious cargo that has ranged from artificial limbs sent to Bangladesh, to toys that have been distributed to orphans in Iraq.
“We could not do it without the help of Boeing,” said Vital Voices’ Van Coevorden. “We could not do it without the help of Ethiopian Airlines. And you can just imagine how many lives will be saved.” By Eric Olson, Deborah Feldman, and Keelan Morris