BASEL, Switzerland: November 27, 2015. A chartered MD-11 freighter donated by Panalpina has just delivered 70 tons of medical aid on behalf of UNICEF to Bujumbura, Burundi.
The aircraft's arrival coincided with a warning by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein that the land-locked Central African country could relapse into a fully-fledged civil war.
Burundi has been in the middle of a political crisis since president Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a controversial third term earlier this year. Since then more than 280,000 people have sought refuge in neighboring countries or have been internally displaced.
Al Hussein said the security situation had been made worse by the recent government suspension of 10 NGOs operating in the country and was a further threat to stability after decades of strife between rival Hutus and Tutsis.
The current crisis has also led to an acute shortage of medication and hospital equipment in Burundi – particularly for children where one in 10 die before the age of five.
The UNICEF shipment included antibiotics, analgesics, infusion sets and hospital equipment and will be distributed to the country's health centers that are the first place to go to for medical assistance. "These relief goods can save the lives of thousands of children," said Elsbeth Mueller, executive director of the Swiss committee for UNICEF. "On behalf of UNICEF I deeply thank Panalpina for their help."
This is the third time that Panalpina has partnered with UNICEF in response to a humanitarian crisis in Africa. Last year the company flew life-saving aid to Sierra Leone to help fight the Ebola outbreak and in 2013 it flew desperately needed goods to the Central African Republic.
The idea for the Panalpina relief flights was prompted by a discussion about the company's traditional Christmas gifts for customers and employees. It was decided that a charitable donation in the form of an aircraft charter for UNICEF would be of more value.