This scenario is actually a reality for Jean-Marie Mulonda, who is heading up WFP’s logistics operations in Côte d’Ivoire.
“The number of beneficiaries may rapidly increase to be higher than the figure that was initially estimated,” says Jean-Marie. “A sudden return of refugees from Liberia or possibly the ongoing assessment carried out by humanitarian partners which measures local needs, may also cause WFP to reassess food assistance requirements,” he explains.
The insecurity of the environment has presented difficulties for Jean-Marie and his team. Rioting and looting of the WFP warehouse in Abidjan stripped WFP of their local food supplies, while private and commercial transporters were unwilling to enter the country, forcing the team to search for new ways to get assistance to beneficiaries. The southern part of the country also inflicted delays in land transport with multiple check points on national roads.
But in traditional WFP fashion, logisticians in Côte d’Ivoire have found a solution to each problem that has hindered operations. As of 17 May 2011, they have delivered 4,055 mt of food, such as rice, oil and pulses, which include lentils or chickpeas -- all within the past five weeks.
When food assistance was lost to looters after their warehouse in Abidjan was raided, WFP Logistics immediately began looking for other food sources, as they rapidly purchased and mobilized life-saving food items from the region, in particular from Mali, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Niger. Also included in this effort was an urgent airlift from Bamako, Mali to Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, bringing 270mt of rice into the country. This assistance allowed WFP to replenish the warehouse in Abidjan and pre-position their food stocks to be ready for delivery as soon as the violence lifted.
In response to lack of transport suppliers, WFP took matters into its own hands and built its own fleet; ten trucks with a total capacity of 120mt have been borrowed from WFP offices in neighbouring countries. WFP logisticians worked to identify new corridors to allow for the safe passage of food into Côte d’Ivoire – both in the North through the city of Pongo, which would reach the western half of the country, as well as through the Port of Tema in Ghana. The country office in Côte d’Ivoire is also making steps to ensure the rapid passage (without the usual monitoring of goods) of all U.N. cargo, in the form of a government-issued permission called a “Laissez-Passer.”
WFP is also supporting the humanitarian community through the Logistics Cluster in providing their own assistance to affected populations by offering storage space in WFP warehouses, and air and road transport services for both cargo and aid workers.The WFP-led United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) has been put in place to bring staff and fellow members of the humanitarian community to and from the field.
In the next three months, 10,000 more tonnes of food is foreseen to be delivered to Côte d’Ivoire, budget permitting. With the security situation getting better, WFP logisticians will continuously evaluate and search out the quickest and most efficient land and air routes to transport food assistance. A little evidence of this can be seen as UNHAS will provide air service directly within the country, starting 16 May 2011 from Abidjan to the cities of Man and Bouaké, which is a positive shift from their current base in Accra, Ghana.
As logistics operations slowly begin to operate in a more secure environment, the citizens of Côte d’Ivoire are starting to be more optimistic. On 6 May, the day which saw the official inauguration of President Ouattara, Jean-Marie described the city of Abidjan as quiet, yet encouraging. “I think the population believes that this event is a major and important step of the peace process,” he shares. Only time will tell what will happen in the future, but WFP remains ready to assist for whatever comes.
All photos credited to WFP/Graan Jaff.