ICAO actions to assist with safe Humanitarian Operations

The international civil aviation network carries over four billion passengers around the world annually. In celebrating ICAO's 75th Anniversary Celebrations, we will be highlighting some of the crucial safety achievements that have enabled this. We hope you follow our UnitingAviation.com series throughout the year, and we encourage you to use the #ICAO75 hashtag to share your thoughts and memories with us through social media.

In accordance with Assembly resolution A29-14 regarding Humanitarian Flights, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)has been supportive of humanitarian flight operations and has established strong collaboration with other UN organizations like the World Food Programme (WFP). This collaboration involves advising and contributing to the establishment of UN policies and procedures for safe flight operations. ICAO participates in the United Nations Aviation Technical Advisory Group (UN-ATAG) and the WFP Aviation Safety Board, as well as in conferences and humanitarian aviation safety promotional activities. Deliberation at the highest levels where the WFP operates benefits both organizations. The technical assistance programmes have been implemented to minimize safety risks and to implement ICAO SARPs in a practical manner to reduce operational safety risks.

When roads are impassable, or infrastructure is destroyed, the WFP turns to the skies to quickly bring humanitarian cargo and aid workers to communities in the most inaccessible places on the planet. Whether the cause is flood or earthquake, cyclone or war, the WFP Aviation operates on the front lines of hunger.

The WFP organizes airlifts that deploy life-saving food assistance by plane within 48 hours when situations on land render surface transport impossible. The Aviation team serves the WFP a reliable and cost-efficient means for transporting food and non-food cargo by air, services that are made available to the entire humanitarian community, including UN agencies and NGOs. When necessary, the WFP also performs air drops by flying over designated ‘drop zones’ and releasing aid cargos from high above, thereby serving remote populations through a rapid and targeted response.

As the world’s leading humanitarian airline, the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) currently has a fleet of more than 90 chartered aircraft, ranging from large to small aircraft and fixed-wing to helicopters, that are deployed to operations around the globe. Aid workers who are deep in the field, with no other means of transportation, rely on UNHAS to transport them to some of the world’s most remote and isolated communities, where commercial airlines do not fly. With air services to more than 250 regular destinations in 16 countries, UNHAS carried more than 250,000 humanitarian passengers.

Passenger safety is at the forefront of all WFP Aviation operations. The WFP’s Aviation Safety Unit, which is headquartered in Rome with regional offices in Kenya, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates, is responsible for ensuring adequate levels of safety. All WFP humanitarian air operations are in accordance with United Nations Common Aviation Safety Standards and the ICAO standards and best practices.

About the author

Captain Samir Sajet is the regional focal point responsible for the World Food Programme (WFP) – Aviation Safety Office (UAE) for Asia, Sudan and the Middle East Regions.  Samir serves the World Food Programme in providing the humanitarian community with safe and reliable air transport services during humanitarian emergencies, and in promoting aviation safety worldwide – particularly in developing countries.  Currently, Captain Samir works at ICAO HQ in Montreal as s technical officer supporting the operational Safety Section. Samir, who began his Un career in 1998 in Iraq and the World Food Programme in Guinea in 2001 as Chief Air Transport Officer, is no stranger to the emergencies that affect the world’s hungry.