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Collaborative Arrangement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation - CAPSCA

Established in 2006, CAPSCA is a voluntary cross-sectorial, multi-organizational collaboration programme managed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) with support from the World Health Organization (WHO). It brings together international, regional, national and local organizations to combine efforts to improve preparedness planning and response to public health events that affect the aviation sector such as:  

  • Communicable diseases (pandemic influenza, Zika, Ebola, Coronavirus);
  • Chemical events (nuclear power-plant accidents);
  • Bioterrorism;
  • Volcanic ash; 
  • Water and food safety; 
  • Hygiene and waste management;
  • Drones in humanitarian operations;
  • Disaster management (natural or man-made disasters).

The programme operates in the six ICAO regions, through its seven regional coordination groups (APAC, ESAF, EUR/NAT, MID, NACC, SAM and WACAF). It provides for an annual multi-sector, multi-stakeholder meeting in each of the regions at which the approach to public health event management in the aviation sector is developed and harmonized globally.  In addition, CAPSCA provides assistance during natural or man-made disasters through the global CAPSCA network.

The objectives of CAPSCA are:

  • Public health protection - the general public, air travellers and aviation personnel;
  • Ensure safe and economically viable air transport, with minimal effect on international travel and trade (Chicago Convention);
  • Assistance to States/Territories with the implementation of ICAO Standards and Regulations (SARPs) and WHO International Health Regulations (IHR);
  • Capacity building - Assistance to States/Territories to establish national aviation pandemic preparedness plans and develop core capabilities;
  • Facilitate multi-sector collaboration and cooperation (civil aviation authorities, public health authorities, airports, air traffic services, airlines, immigration, customs, security and handling personnel) - a mechanism for pooling and sharing expertise, resources and best practices;
  • Training of CAPSCA assessors;
  • Assess State readiness to manage (prevent and respond) to public health events in aviation and provision of advice to States and Territories; 
  • Further development and improvement of guidelines for the aviation sector.

Cross-Sectorial Collaborative Agreement

The growth of international traffic of passengers and goods has increased the risk of the spread of infectious diseases, therefore, protection of global health becomes even higher priority not only to airlines and airports in terms of the passenger, pilots and other personnel, but also to governments concerning their health, safety and security oversight responsibilities under the Chicago Convention and the International Health Regulations (IHR).

Apart from loss of lives, outbreaks of infectious diseases are estimated to cost the world $60 billion each year. Economists estimate that, in coming decades, pandemics will cause average annual economic losses of 0.7% of global GDP - a threat similar in scale to that estimated for climate change.

The most recent outbreaks (Ebola in 2018 and COVID-19 in 2019) have demonstrated the pivotal role of aviation in the effort to mitigate the spread of communicable diseases, its subsequent impact on the global public health and economy e.g. travel restrictions causing disruptions on the global trade, food and medical supply chain and tourism. This can only be achieved by adopting a multi-sectoral, multi-organizational approach.

The inadequate preparedness and the need for a coordinated global response (multi-sectorial, multi-organizational approach) were identified as the biggest challenges of the international community regarding the management of a public health event in aviation. The purpose of CAPSCA is to address these challenges by ensuring collaboration between the aviation and public health sectors; facilitating safe and economically viable air transport while contributing to public health protection. 

To make this possible, ICAO partners with several UN agencies and international organizations to build capacity and increase preparedness to mitigate and manage the effects of public health events on civil aviation. 

For example, ICAO assisted in building airport capacity to manage communicable diseases arriving on flights by presenting and providing guidelines at a conference hosted by the Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP). ICAO also assisted WHO in building State capacity to manage public health emergencies in aviation by participating in and facilitating ”Train the trainer” workshops in the Asia-Pacific (China) and East African (Zimbabwe) regions. 


WHO and ICAO collaborated on vector control mapping and aircraft disinsection initiatives, which resulted in a review of WHO recommendations in July 2018 with WHO considering the use of the ICAO Risk Assessment and Disinsection Decision Making Tool (currently under development by ICAO) as a basis for further development and recommendations.

ICAO continues to work with its current partners on the implementation of the International Health Regulations (IHR) and ICAO Public Health related Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs), but will also expand collaboration to additional private organizations such as medical software developers and university research partners to mitigate the impact of public health events such as the international spread of diseases and to safeguard international air traffic.

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