Belgrade, 18th April 2020 – When the airplane coming from China landed at Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla Airport this morning, the overall quantity of the much-needed medical and protective equipment delivered to Serbia by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in cooperation with the EU, exceeded 3,000 cubic metres in volume, which equals the total volume of an entire Olympic-sized swimming pool.
Counting from 26th March, this is the tenth airplane flight bringing in supplies organised by the UNDP, acting on a request submitted by the Government of Serbia, owing to the financial support of the European Union. The shipments delivered so far have included respirators, protective masks and clothes, medical gloves and COVID-19 tests, either procured by the Government of Serbia or received as donations, which are intended for health care institutions throughout the country, as well as other participants on the front line of the fight against the epidemic.
“Very soon after the outbreak of the epidemic, the Government of the Republic of Serbia urgently procured the requisite medical equipment. At the moment when the procurement of the equipment was ensured, what we needed most of all was assistance when it came to transportation and delivery, so we turned to the UNDP, which provided the first airplane to be used for this purpose in less than 48 hours. The Government of Serbia, the EU and the UNDP participate as partners in this very complex undertaking for the purpose of transporting the equipment procured from various parts of the world. We are continuing our efforts aimed at organising new flights, so that all the equipment provided by the Government of Serbia could arrive in Serbia as soon as possible“, says Danijel Nikolić, the Government’s Assistant Secretary General.
“Our assistance in combating the COVID-19 pandemic is in the spirit of the longstanding solidarity and friendship that constitute the basis of the relations between the EU and Serbia. From the very beginning of this crisis, almost not a single day has passed without the delivery of the necessary medical equipment for Serbian health care institutions and endangered communities, transported or purchased by the EU. We are proud of being able to provide quick assistance owing to the help package worth 15 million euros, financed by the European Union, intended for urgent measures aimed at providing assistance in Serbia. Over the past few weeks, the ten cargo flights whose transportation costs were entirely financed by the EU have brought in the majority of the medical supplies procured abroad by the Government of Serbia, as well as the equipment directly procured by the EU for Serbia – respirators, laboratory equipment and tests, monitors for intensive care units, contactless thermometers and protective equipment, which have been arriving from the beginning of April. As was the case in difficult moments in the past, the EU continues to stand by Serbia. This virus knows no boundaries. It is only together that we can overcome the hardships that these days bring”, stresses the EU Delegation to Serbia.
Francine Pickup, the Resident UNDP representative in Serbia, has pointed out: “Each aircraft that brings in the necessary medical equipment represents a victory in the fight against COVID-19. The current circumstances, in which these supplies are the most sought-after commodity in the whole world, require very quick reactions. Due to intense pressure on suppliers, it happens that the equipment we transport does not reach the warehouse or airport terminal within the agreed deadline. This means that the flight must be delayed and that the flight route must be changed, which may entail the issuance of new permits. That is why continuous communication and coordination with the relevant authorities, including the Cabinets of the President and the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the embassies of the countries from which the goods are being delivered is of decisive importance. We are grateful for the trust placed in us by the Government of Serbia, manifested by engaging our services for this important task, and for our partnership with the EU and their funding, which has enabled us to transport the medical equipment necessary to save lives in record time”, added Pickup.
Given the global crisis, organising transportation is much more than merely hiring cargo planes and securing flight permits. The UNDP Office in Serbia has received great support from the global UNDP network, which has representative offices in 170 states and territories.
Parallel with the procurement of medical and protective equipment, the UNDP supports the Office of IT and eGovernment when it comes to developing digital solutions (the Be a Volunteer and Digital Solidarity platforms, providing data relating to COVID-19 on the national open data portal), provides assistance to the most vulnerable groups (the Roma, women exposed to the risk of violence in the family) and, in cooperation with the private sector, prepares solutions that will help the socio-economic recovery of the country after the crisis.
The UNDP used its experience gathered in emergency situations throughout the world to contribute adequately to the renewal of Serbia after the great floods of 2014, and also in the 2017-2019 period, when, with the support of the EU, it provided assistance to local governments affected by the migrant crisis.