Instant hospital for Syrian refugees


An entire field hospital complete with personnel was shipped to Jordan courtesy of Airbus, bringing much-needed relief to Azraq’s vast refugee camp. The goodwill mission was a team effort, to which Finnair Cargo contributed. 

With thousands fleeing Syria every day to escape a bloody conflict that has now raged for over 30 months – claiming more than 100,000 lives – the refugee camps in neighbouring Jordan are literally swelling to the size of cities. Health challenges are rife and living conditions are “far from optimal” reports Kalle Löövi, Director of International Operations and Programmes at the Finnish Red Cross. 

To relieve pressure on the overcrowded Zaatari camp, authorities are building a new camp for 130,000 people in Azraq, 50 km from the Syrian border. The camp’s urgent need for a medical facility was answered in August 2013 in a goodwill mission organized by the Airbus Corporate Foundation and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). 

A test aircraft was deployed to airlift 25 tonnes of medical supplies and equipment to Amman, Jordan. The Airbus A340-600 was loaded in Helsinki by the Finnish Red Cross, with support from Finnair Cargo. The shipment included everything from surgical clothing to x-ray equipment, beds, tents and inoculations – enough to get the hospital up and running for four months.

Just add water

“This mission was unique in that it was the first time we transported a significant load as well as ten Red Cross doctors, nurses and technicians. This in itself is exceptional in that it enables the efficient deployment of the hospital, as the equipment and personnel arrive at the same time,” says Gina Dieu, Head of Operations of the Airbus Foundation.

Rapid deployment emergency response requires “an unbelievable amount of pre-planning and preparation to succeed”, adds Kalle Löövi. In a desert location such as Jordan, the shipment must contain virtually all essentials but raw water. All items must be packed and protected properly, lifted by human hand, carefully fitted on the plane, and they must function “straight out of the box”.

“Most items are packed in our standard Emergency Response Unit aluminium or carton boxes which are colour- and letter-coded and individually numbered. These markings allow us to follow their movements precisely and ensure that all material arrives at the site in exactly the right order, regardless of whether the carrier is a plane, truck or donkey,” says Löövi.

A little help from friends

The mission was a team effort between Airbus, the IFRC, the Finnish Red Cross, the Jordanian Red Crescent, Finnair Cargo and Nordisk Aviation, who supplied cargo nets. 

Finnair Cargo played an instrumental role in palletizing the shipment and loading the aircraft in collaboration with the Airbus flight test personnel, providing the necessary skills and personnel on a no-cost basis. 

“We were delighted to work with Finnair Cargo. They were cooperative and professional. The palletization and loading went as scheduled and as planned, which allowed us to leave Finland on time for Amman. The mission was a great success thanks to the incredible collaboration and cooperative spirit of all the partners,” says Gina Dieu.

“We at the Red Cross have a long history of working with Finnair. We can trust that everything is planned and handled professionally. We are both seriously committed to doing a professional job in a good spirit for the good of people,” says Löövi.

For more information on the Airbus Corporate Foundation, please visit:

Text by Silja Kudel 
Photo by Jarkko Mikkonen / Finnish Red Cross


Published September 17, 2013

Category: Collaboration, Corporate Responsibility