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Pacific humanitarian flights underway

The Pacific Island Forum’s (P.I.F.) efforts to get humanitarian and medical supplies around the region have begun with 200,000 surgical masks and 16,000 protective suits landing in Fiji this week from Shanghai.

Sponsored by Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s Foundation, the supplies are destined for Fiji, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia and French Polynesia to aid the response against the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in the region.

P.I.F’s Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19 (P.H.P.-C.) was established last month to provide regional coordination for supplies coming from all over the world, on routes now hampered by severe border closures and travel restrictions.

Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor said the Pathway means countries in the region and cooperate and take care of each other.

The supplies have all come from Shanghai and are being handed over the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) for further distribution. 

Papua New Guinea  will receive 45 per cent of the supplies and New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Fiji are receiving ten per cent each. 

“These countries are all battling COVID-19 outbreaks and have requested assistance,” a statement from P.I.F. states.

“The remaining P.P.E. (personal protective equipment) will be a buffer for Pacific Islands Forum member countries.”

“This Personal Protective Equipment is just the first delivery facilitated by the P.H.P.-C,” Dame Taylor said.

“We will continue to work with and respond to requests for support from Member countries to combat COVID-19, together with our partners including the Pacific Community, W.H.O., United Nations, Forum Dialogue Partners, Pacific private sector and civil society. We are all in this together.”

The 18 Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum, including Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi have recognised COVID-19 as a major crisis and have invoked the Biketawa Declaration to collectively respond to the pandemic.

The Declaration has previously been invoked three times: in 2003 for the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands, in 2004 for the Pacific Regional Assistance to Nauru and during the 2009 Fiji political crisis.

But this pandemic is the first time every single member of the Forum has been in crisis. 

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