The world witnessed two major disasters during the course of May, with Tropical Cyclone Nargis striking the coast of Burma and a massive earthquake devastating the Chinese province of Sichuan.
With death tolls still rising exponentially as this magazine went to press, it is worth pausing for a moment to reevaluate the vital role that the airfreight industry plays in alleviating the suffering of those left destitute by natural catastrophe.
The aviation sector is generally regarded by outsiders as one imbued with a degree of glamour, although there has been nothing glitzy about the way that regional and international operators have rolled up their sleeves and worked to deliver crucial supplies to some of the globe's most remote regions.
The Middle East has incredible potential to be a prime brokering hub for charter companies as well as the scheduled carriers, and this can only improve the lot of the humanitarian logistics industry.
As if the region's strategic location were not enough - perched as it is between the displacement and famine that afflict Africa and the natural tragedies that have recently hit Asia - the wealth of facilities tailored to the aid industry has meant that many agencies have opened offices and are maintaining stockpiles near the Middle East's biggest hubs in order to ship equipment at the drop of a hat.
Dubai's International Humanitarian City, the first of its kind, aims to provide practical support to aid agencies and also has extensive warehousing. Many of the UN's various agencies have a presence there, and the location also provides assistance with customs and visa permits.
But however well-prepared freight operators providing humanitarian supplies may be, they are always reliant on the governmental protocols both of the country from which supplies are exported and the country which will eventually receive the aid.
In the Burmese case, state restrictions on agencies have undoubtedly augmented the death toll, although it will probably never be known by how much. No-one can doubt the charity of the UAE and the other GCC countries - the federation is worthy of praise as one of the largest donors of aid in the world - but there is always room for improvement in terms of infrastructure and customs protocols.
The ongoing onus is on all parties to ensure that desperately needed equipment can be freighted as soon as possible, and closer consultation between state agencies and aid suppliers, as witnessed at International Humanitarian City, should help to fulfil that aim.
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Edward Attwood is the deputy editor of Air Cargo Middle East & India
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