In the humanitarian world, limitations on access can be one of the most debilitating aspects of an operation, making it difficult for aid workers to reach those in need. In times of an emergency where speed is of the essence, the ability to move humanitarian cargo to the most vulnerable communities is paramount.
The Horn of Africa crisis was similar to other emergencies in that problems with access presented themselves frequently, particularly in Somalia. Although this was not unique, the solutions were.
While many humanitarian aid agencies depended on the seas to shuttle in their cargo from international waters, be it food or non-food relief items, ports in Kenya, Djibouti and Somalia proved to be uniquely important. Yet parts of this area weren’t so easy to navigate.
Insecurity along the coast of Somalia had the potential to impact all relief operations by limiting the ability to move large amounts of cargo by sea into Mogadishu, and the quantity needed made sustained airlifts impractical. Prior to this emergency, WFP had been accommodating shipments for other organizations on its chartered vessels, but as the needs increased another solution had to be found to assist an estimated 3.7 million people in need of assistance in Somalia.
Together with the Logistics Cluster, the WFP Somalia country office evaluated the operational requirements and ensured that a dedicated and secure vessel was available for use during the famine response. This was a service that was completely free for users, enabling organizations to send large quantities of life-saving relief goods to various ports in Somalia (including Mogadishu Port in the south, and the ports of Berbera and Bossaso in the north). The shipping team at HQ was able to secure a dedicated vessel, using their expertise to evaluate and contract the right one. The Logistics Cluster was responsible for coordinating with WFP Logistics and all its partners in the humanitarian community for the loading the cargo, transporting it by sea, and discharging it at the relevant Somali port. From October 2011 to June 2012, more than 700mt of food, 700mt of shelter materials, almost 270mt of WASH supplies, and other non-food items to support nutrition, education, and health activities were transported. During this same period, WFP organized the transport of life-saving food assistance of 42,985.188MT
After a February 2012 study concluded that famine was no longer a risk in southern Somalia, the humanitarian community began re-assessing the response. Logistics Cluster participants agreed to continue the free shipping service until July 2012, after which it would transition back to full cost recovery, meaning that a WFP-chartered vessel would remain available for humanitarian partners moving relief items into Somalia. So far, 18 humanitarian organizations have signed agreements with WFP, enabling them to make use of this service. (Interested in using this service? Follow this link for more info.)
Completing its first voyage in August 2012, the cost recovery shipping service will continue through at least the end of June 2013, ensuring efficient and timely transportation of humanitarian cargo remains available through WFP.