The 86th Airlift Wing delivered medical supplies to the government of Ghana April 24, 2020, to help support the country’s COVID-19 response efforts. Approximately 4,000 pounds of medical cargo and supplies provided by the Naval Medical Research Unit Three-Ghana Detachment were stuck in Manchester, U.K., due to logistical disruptions caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
As confirmed cases of the disease gradually made their way to West Africa and eventually Ghana, the laboratory supplies became even more critical during this rapidly evolving crisis. With logistical challenges accompanying the spread of the disease, they would have remained stranded in Manchester, U.K., until sometime in May.
The U.S. Embassy in Accra, Ghana, requested support from U.S. Africa Command to deliver three pallets of equipment to Ghana. Together they developed a plan to transport the supplies from RAF Mildenhall, U.K., to Ramstein Air Base, Germany. From Germany, the supplies were then delivered to Accra, Ghana, after a brief stop in Niamey, Niger.
It took a joint team of Airmen, Sailors, DoD Civilians, local national employees and contractors from U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa, AFRICOM and Air Mobility Command units to transport the cargo 3,400 miles using C-5 Galaxy, C-17 Globemaster and C-130J Super Hercules aircraft.
“A mission like this is why we’re here. We are the gateway to the world,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark August, 86th Airlift Wing commander. “When a big gray aircraft shows up with an American flag on the tail, that sends a message of hope, and our Airmen are proud to support our partners as we fight this invisible enemy together.”
The medical supplies included ribonucleic acid(RNA), nucleic acid extraction kits, reagents, viral collection swabs, universal and viral transport media to collect and store specimens, and the replenishment of other consumable lab supplies.
They were originally ordered in January 2020 to support NAMRU-3 Ghana Detachment research efforts, specifically ongoing influenza surveillance, in partnership with Ghana’s National Influenza Center at the Noguchi Memorial Institute of Medical Research, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and the Kumasi Centre of Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine. It was immediately clear the supplies would be critical to support the Government of Ghana’s ongoing fight against COVID-19.
"Operating in one of the most logistically challenging theaters to move people and materiel, the emergence of COVID-19 has introduced some new hurdles we have had to consider in U.S. Africa Command's Area of Responsibility,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Leo Kosinski, AFRICOM Director for Logistics. “Nonetheless, movement of this shipment of critical medical supplies from the United Kingdom to Ghana represents one of many logistics moves executed recently despite these challenges. The fact that so many professionals from multiple commands quickly came together to work through this particular requirement highlights our amazing and unique team of professionals. They are working together every day for the interests of the American people and our global partners even in the toughest of circumstances."
NAMRU-3 Ghana Detachment is a collaborator within the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch Global Emerging Infections Surveillance partner network and has supported influenza surveillance for both human and avian influenza strains in Ghana since 2007.
The arrival of the needed medical supplies underscores the results of the growing partnership between the United States of America and the Republic of Ghana to combat COVID-19, to save lives and protect the people of Ghana.