UNICEF mobilizes one of world’s largest planes to airlift supplies for children in Ukraine

Charter flight donation from Kuehne + Nagel allows UNICEF to ship 111 metric tonnes of emergency supplies to Poland for distribution in Ukraine.

04 April 2022
A Ukrainian aircraft, the Antonov-124, which was specifically designed to carry heavy or bulky loads.
Kuehne + Nagel/2022/Syed

The war in Ukraine is having a devastating impact on the country’s 7.5 million children. As fighting continues, the humanitarian needs escalate.

UNICEF is on the ground with partners providing essential services and support to children and families in desperate need of safety, stability and protection. As part of its emergency response, UNICEF is working with freight and logistics partners to transport supplies into Ukraine to reach those in need.

UNICEF partners step up emergency support 

On 29 March, the logistics company Kuehne + Nagel provided UNICEF with a donated charter flight to ship 111 metric tonnes of critical supplies from the United Arab Emirates to Poland. Within 48 hours of touchdown, the first deliveries reached UNICEF’s warehouse in Lviv, western Ukraine, for onward dispatch throughout the country.

The Ukrainian aircraft used for this operation, the Antonov-124, is one of the largest cargo planes in the world, specifically designed to transport heavy or bulky loads. The plane carried education materials for 40,000 children, recreation kits for 31,500 children and adolescents, safe water and hygiene kits to support 3,700 people, blankets, shelters and other emergency supplies.

“Right now, this is the fastest growing humanitarian crisis in the world and the speed of our response is critical. As Ukrainian airspace remains closed, this donated charter flight enables us to ship massive volumes of life-saving supplies in a matter of hours to Poland for onward transport into Ukraine,” said Jean-Cédric Meeùs, Chief of Global Transport, UNICEF Supply Division. 

A man in a blue UNICEF jacket is offloading a truck with UNICEF supplies.
Emergency supplies are offloaded in UNICEF’s warehouse in Lviv, western Ukraine.

Kuehne + Nagel pledged over US$10 million of logistics services to UNICEF and other humanitarian organizations to transport aid for Ukraine. The Antonov flight is one of three charters scheduled to deliver supplies as part of this contribution. 

"Thanks to our long-standing, trusted partnership with UNICEF, we were able to very quickly set up a critical aid campaign for Ukraine jointly. It's symbolic in itself that today we can make one of the largest deliveries of aid with a Ukrainian Antonov airplane. I am grateful to all our partners as well as to all the Kuehne + Nagel employees who support our pledge for the Ukrainian people," said Dr. Detlef Trefzger, CEO, Kuehne + Nagel International AG.

Rapid scale-up for emergency response

Despite the challenging security situation, UNICEF managed to quickly establish a supply pipeline into Ukraine, and now has rolling deliveries arriving on a daily basis at the newly established warehouse in Lviv. Most emergency supplies are being trucked from UNICEF’s Global Supply and Logistics Hub in Copenhagen. 

UNICEF is distributing supplies in country as quickly as conditions allow and expanding operations, while continuing to call for a ceasefire and humanitarian corridors to reach children and families in need.

A girl is sitting cross-legged on the floor and shows a self-made card.
A young girl created a card during a workshop conducted by a UNICEF volunteer psychologist in the Kharkiv metro, which now serves as a bomb shelter for children and adults in war-torn Ukraine. UNICEF equipped the metro station in Kharkiv with learning materials for art, play and reading.

A  snapshot of UNICEF’s support for children in Ukraine

UNICEF is working around the clock to scale up life-saving programmes for children. This includes:

  • Ramping up efforts to meet critical and escalating needs for safe water, health care, education and protection.
  • Delivering family hygiene kits, baby diapers, maternal health kits, institutional hygiene kits, disinfectants, bottled water, winter clothes, blankets, education and recreation supplies for children and adolescents. 
  • Increasing the number of mobile child protection teams working between conflict lines.
  • Working with UNHCR and partners to activate Blue Dot hubs – one-stop safe spaces for children and women. Blue Dots provide key information to traveling families, help to identify unaccompanied and separated children and ensure their protection.

UNICEF will continue to build and leverage valuable partnerships to mobilize much needed supplies to support children and families in Ukraine.