IAG Cargo carries vaccine to Venezuela in wake of diphtheria outbreak

As the economic chaos in Venezuela slowly morphs into a humanitarian crisis, the air cargo industry is stepping in to help bring aid to a new healthcare threat in the troubled South American country.

U.K.-based IAG Cargo, in partnership with Indian biopharmaceutical company, Biological E. Limited, said it has shipped more than 5 tonnes of the urgently needed vaccine to curb a diphtheria outbreak in both India and Venezuela over the course of one week. An outbreak caused by lack of proper plumbing and basic sanitary resources has caused the preventable bacterial infection to spread to 1,900 people, in the wake of political and economic turmoil in Venezuela.

“We take the responsibility of shipping life-saving medication very seriously,” said Jez Palmer, global product manager for IAG Cargo’s time-sensitive cargo segment, Constant Climate. At the time of the program’s launch in July of last year, the company said the service was largely in anticipation of demand for the transport of pharma along the prominent India-Latin America trade lane.

According to American humanitarian response organization USAID, suspected cases of diphtheria in Venezuela increased by more than 50 percent between early June and mid-July. In addition, the collapsing infrastructure in the country has led to a 50 percent increase in confirmed cases of measles in the region.

The carrier currently ships pharma products to 90 countries and is still expanding. In its 2018 interim statement released earlier this month, the company said “construction is underway” of a new Constant Climate facility for pharmaceuticals in Madrid.

In early August, the government of Ecuador declared an emergency in three provinces in response to the influx of nearly 100,000 Venezuelans fleeing their native country due to the chaos. As of June, nearly 100,000 Venezuelans were sheltering in Ecuador. On Aug. 8, Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, pledged nearly US$9 million in additional humanitarian assistance from USAID for the Venezuela regional crisis.

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