Dadaab refugee camp through a logistician's eyes
Consolata Kwadi, "Conso" for short, has been working with WFP as a Logistics Officer at Dadaab refugee camp since March 2005. A self-proclaimed "logistician for life", Conso tells us that Dadaab is nothing like it was when she began there.
“In 2005, Dadaab was a normal refugee camp with a routine food distribution programme. There were sufficient food stocks and the workload on staff members was Ok,” says Conso. “As the population drastically grew, we had to concentrate on ensuring that beneficiaries get the right type and amount of food assistance. We have learned how to quickly adjust to any kind of emergency, whatever time of the day or night it happens. With the current influx, we have had put in long hours of work, and sometimes even get involved in food distributions (something normally done with the help of local humanitarian partners and non-governmental organizations).”
Situated some 80 kms from the Somali border, Dadaab camp sprawls over 50sq kms (19sq miles) of semi-arid land, filled with makeshift houses, schools, and feeding and community centres. Conso watched as the camp has grown from approximately 138,000 refugees in August 2005 to an estimated 417,000 today, according to UNHCR.
When asked what the role of WFP Logistics is at Dadaab, Conso explains that, “We ensure there are sufficient storage facilities, enough food available, and an efficient on-time delivery of food and non-food commodities to their required destinations. In addition, WFP Logistics coordinates the stock, monitoring and delivery of nutrient-packed High Energy Biscuits (HEBs), which is normally the first food item that refugees receive upon arriving in the reception centre at Dadaab.”
While WFP logisticians ensure that food is stocked and distributed once every 2 weeks, refugees also receive their basic needs through various other humanitarian organizations and partners such as medical attention, shelter, water and sanitation, education, and even vocational training.
“We want to make sure that they feel that is as much of a home as possible while they are away from home,” says Conso.
Within the camp itself, there are 3 separate refugee camps: IFO Section N, Hagadera and Dagahaley, each spread over a wide area and divided into “blocks” (e.g. Block A1, A2, etc). WFP’s logistics operations involve food receipt, storage and distribution. At the individual camp level, Conso works in IFO Section N, where they receive food assistance coming in by land from various cities such as Nairobi, Mombasa and Eldoret. Once the commodities arrive at the camp, WFP logisticians constantly update their food stocks, ensuring that they have appropriate reserves for the next 3 months. They are then able to allocate food through a variety of different programmes, such as General Food Distribution (GFD), School Meals Programme (SMP), Supplementary Feeding Programme (SFP) and Food for Assets (FFA).
Each of these programmes requires a large amount of logistics involvement, mostly during handling. For example, food for general distribution is picked up and carried by casual labourers to the each of the distribution centres, while distributing schools meals have an additional preparation step. Each child benefiting from this programme is provided with a sort of nutritious porridge and young girls in particular are given sugar rations. To prepare the porridge mixture, Corn Soya Blend (CSB) and powdered milk must be pre-mixed. The food is then re-bagged and loaded onto trucks while the sugar is re-packed into 500g sachets.
At least 2 days prior to each food distribution, Logistics must coordinate the amount and type of food needed at the distribution centres. For example, in the IFO Section N, Conso and her colleagues must ensure that there is enough food to feed 138,000 people every 2 weeks. Conso herself is in charge of managing the storage of food in the IFO Section N, as well as tracking commodities on the move, through an interactive data management system which is updated in real-time.
While Conso admits that it’s been tough recently at Dadaab camp, she is reminded everyday of why her work is important when she sees children and families receiving WFP food assistance.
“I have seen faces of satisfaction, and I have felt the faith they have in WFP. I went to visit a school one day during school feeding time and I saw happy faces of kids going to get their meal for the day! For me, this is all that counts. The feeling that I have played a role in helping save a life and bring a smile on a child’s face gives me satisfaction.”
*Bottom two photos were taken at IFO Section N, Dadaab refugee camp. Copyright: WFP/Consolata Kwadi