The World Food Program (WFP) has partnered with Flight Safety Foundation’s Basic Aviation Risk Standard (BARS) Program to support humanitarian partners responding to COVID-19 and other crises around the world through its joint initiative “Program-Connect.”
Before the pandemic hit, commercial passenger flights carried around 50% of food and aid cargo. However, international flights dropped by 92% between April and June 2020, challenging health and humanitarian organizations’ ability to deliver critical supplies to countries in need.
To ensure uninterrupted humanitarian workers and cargo movement, WFP stepped up to support the global COVID-19 response by leveraging its logistics capacity and expertise. WFP’s mandated United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) operations continue to serve the humanitarian and development communities covering 22 countries.
Chief of World Food Program Aviation Safety Unit Mario Sibrian said WFP aviation remains a lifeline service to transport humanitarian passengers.
“WFP air passenger services have been a vital link for humanitarians and health workers trying to reach the pandemic response frontline,” Sibrian said.
Under the Program-Connect Initiative, more than 120 Registered Aircraft Operators from BARS can be evaluated against the United Nations Aviation Standards’ WFP requirements and be eligible to join the WFP’s Registered Aircraft Operators.
BARS Program managing director David Anderson said Program-Connect is the first initiative of its kind in the contract aviation industry.
“We are extremely proud to extend the benefits of the BARS Program to support the important work conducted by the WFP and provide a recognized structure to evaluate the safety of potential humanitarian flight contractors.”
“Program-Connect will expand WFP’s global network and mobilize our already existing network of operators in 28 countries, including Africa, the Middle East, Asia and South America” Anderson said.
As airspace restrictions slowly relax in some countries and commercial carriers have returned to the skies, WFP has accordingly discontinued flights to some of the destinations they served. However, it still maintains services to locations around the world with no safe and reliable commercial options. It also continues to open new destinations based on the community’s health and humanitarian needs.
Despite the extreme challenges posed by COVID-19, WFP’s United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) operations continue to serve humanitarian and development communities in 21 countries. In 2020, UNHAS operations transported 170,000 passengers, while air cargo delivery reached over 2,300 metric tonnes amid COVID-19 restrictions and flight suspensions from March to July 2020.
The initiative comes as BARS celebrates its 10th anniversary as the first single global aviation standard to evaluate the safety of contract aircraft operators.
Anderson said the downward trend in contract aviation accidents in the onshore resource sector correlates to the growth of the BARS Program.
“As Program-Connect encourages aircraft operators to implement rigorous risk management and safety assurance, we are confident this downward trend in the onshore resource sector will be replicated in the humanitarian industry despite the increased need for aid,” Anderson added.