Royal couple send-off British Airways relief flight to East Africa

British Airways responded to a UNICEF appeal, which is being backed by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, to help the 13 million victims of the East African crisis by sending a relief flight full of aid to the region.

In their first joint humanitarian mission, the royal couple toured a British Airways’ relief plane, a Boeing 747, at Copenhagen airport on Wednesday, November 2 following their visit to UNICEF’s warehouse in Denmark’s capital.

Keith Williams, British Airways’ CEO, said: “We immediately agreed to donate an aircraft to help UNICEF get their aid to East Africa. The team at British Airways has launched a number of these flights in recent years to crisis-hit areas such as Haiti and Japan so we’re well practised in getting the aircraft and team out as soon as possible. We need to help keep a focus on the crisis in East Africa so this is our second relief flight to the region. We’re delighted the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be seeing the flight off.”

The aircraft, operating under flight number BA9116C, departed Copenhagen International Airport at 1800 hours (local time) en route for Nairobi laden with 45 tonnes of UNICEF aid including life saving emergency medical supplies to help children affected by diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea.

The eight-hour flight was operated by a team of three pilots and four cabin crew. Also on board were British Airways engineering staff who were responsible for loading and unloading the aid, and a member of UNICEF’s supply staff.  

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As well as filling the cargo hold, the aircraft’s cabins, which would normally be full of passengers flying to destinations such as Los Angeles and Hong Kong, were commandeered to ensure as much aid as possible reaches the stricken region.

UNICEF UK’s Executive Director, David Bull, commented: “We know that when children are malnourished their immune systems are weakened and they become very susceptible to life threatening diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea. We need to help these children urgently. The supplies being packed on this plane will help UNICEF to save these children’s lives. On behalf of everyone at UNICEF I want to extend my huge thanks to all at British Airways who have helped make this happen.”

It is more than three months since famine was declared in parts of East Africa, following the worst drought in 50 years, which has devastated food sources across Dijbouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. Without rain for two successive seasons, crops failed and livestock perished. Food prices soared, forcing at least 600,000 people to flee their villages in search of food, water and medicine, making treacherous journeys to refugee camps. At least 13 million people require assistance and half of those are children.

To donate to UNICEF’s East Africa appeal please visit: http://www.eastafricacrisis.org.

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