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Desert, swamp or jungle, to get food to the hungry, WFP's logistics team has to negotiate some of the toughest terrain on the planet.

On average, WFP reaches more than 80 million people with food assistance in 75 countries each year.

When the areas needing food are not accessible by road, rail or river, other methods are brought into play. An emergency may require a cargo drop from aircraft or a helicopter airlift, but there are other options too. Locally engaged porters, as well as teams of elephants, yak, donkeys and camels are also used when necessary. 

Always on the move

On any given day WFP operates an average of:

  • 50 aircraft
  • 30 ships
  • 5,000 trucks

The different ways WFP transports food can be grouped into three categories: surface transport, shipping and aviation

Rapid response

About half the food distributed by WFP is sourced directly within the country or region where it is needed. The other half, sourced internationally, is shipped by sea and unloaded in more than 70 ports around the world.

Thanks to a range of strategies, WFP is always able to provide a rapid response to hunger emergencies. A key element in this response is the WFP-managed network of UN Humanitarian Response Depots. These are hubs, positioned near disaster-prone areas around the world, where emergency supplies are stored in readiness.

Serving the humanitarian community

WFP's expertise in logistics meant that in 2005 the agency was mandated to lead logistics operations whenever a humanitarian emergency requires a joint response from UN agencies and the humanitarian community. The group of agencies or organisations which work together is called the Logistics Cluster.

WFP also provides passenger air transport to the entire humanitarian community through the UN Humanitarian Air Service (see video on right), which goes to more than 250 locations worldwide.

Download the WFP Logistics brochure

Logistics Latest

1) The first WFP flight arrived in Vanuatu on the evening of 22 March, carrying operational cargo and relief items for humanitarian partners from the WFP-managed U.N. Humanitarian Response Depots in Dubai and Malaysia, and supported by the United Arab Emirates.






2) When urgent cargo arrives and there is no available storage, what does WFP do? Set up some mobile warehouses!







3) Food and non-food relief items are temporarily stored here at the Vanuatu airport through the Logistics Cluster.







4) At the same time, IT experts from the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster and its network of partners are establishing internet connectivity.










5) Essential air support to transport food and cargo is being provided by partners. Here, a plane full of nutritious biscuits from WFP arrives in Vanuatu. Thanks for carrying it, Australia!







6) The biscuits make their way to Cyclone-affected islands receiving food assistance, going by truck and small boat..







7) ...while some are transported by helicopter to reach them.







8)  Family-sized packets of rice provided by the Government also go by air..







9) ...and arrive by air taxi.







10) Vanuatu families meet at the food distribution center, where they pick up their rations and begin walking home.







11) After travelling on trucks, boats, planes and helicopters, the food arrives where it's needed most.













WFP is entirely voluntarily funded. Thanks to all of our donors who have generously supported us, ensuring our ability to provide food assistance and support the Government of Vanuatu’s relief efforts.

Footage: WFP/Victoria Cavanagh


It's been just over two weeks since Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu. WFP is supporting the government-led relief effort by helping organize distributions, logistics services, and providing extra food to supplement government packages for around 160,000 people across 22 islands.

Here are 12 gifs that explain:

Since Typhoon Yolanda, WFP has been working in close coordination with a number of actors in order to strengthen emergency response capabilities and improve preparedness for upcoming typhoons. As lead agency of the Logistics Cluster, WFP engages private sector partners such as those who form the Logistics Emergency Team (LET). The LET consists of representatives from private sector logistics companies such as UPS, Agility and Maersk with the purpose of providing logistical expertise and in-kind services and equipment during an emergency.

Since its initiation of the LET, the Logistics Cluster has been providing emergency response training to LET members to broaden the capacity of support that can be called upon during emergencies. In 2013, the LET deployed staff members to the Yolanda response, provided warehousing for storage of inter-agency relief items, supplied equipment to support airport and port operations and allocated a team of experts to assist in the government-led operations in Tacloban.

On 1 December 2014, a year after Typhoon Yolanda and hours prior to the announcement of oncoming Typhoon Ruby, 22 LET member national and regional logistics managers based in the Asia region were taking part in a training event in Manila. After Typhoon Ruby made landfall in Eastern Samar province on 6 December, eight LET staff members, four of which had only just completed the training, were quickly involved from their local branches within the Philippines to help pro-vide logistics information, support and transportation services.

In partnership with the Government of the Philippines, WFP has also been helping to address operational bottlenecks and capacity limitations identified during the Yolanda response and share lessons learned. Through generous support from a variety of donors, WFP has implemented a range of projects and initiatives and is currently working to establish a network of Government Disaster Response Centres located throughout the country, where prepositioned relief items and operational support equipment will be based. In addition, WFP is working in close cooperation with the government to develop a training package for government staff focusing on emergency response logistics and supply chains.

This inter-agency approach has proven again the effectiveness of a coordinated and cooperated response of various actors and support provided, including to the Government of the Philippines, who was commended for its response to Typhoon Ruby. Now that Ruby has passed and the recovery process to repair the damage has been long underway, preparedness for the next typhoon will continue.

Strengthening Disaster Preparedness in the Philippines

It must have seemed like history was repeating itself when just over a year after Typhoon Yolanda caused catastrophic damage in the Philippines, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) first alerted the population to another oncoming Typhoon. Predicted to take the same path as Yolanda, Typhoon Ruby was gaining strength as it slowly twisted its way west across the Pacific ocean towards the east coast of the Philippines.

In 2012, WFP began directly supporting the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution to strengthen the existing TPDS.

To do this, WFP led the development of a Best Practice Solution called the ‘TPDS 3S model’, which serves as a national level, technology-led, best practice framework for subsidized food delivery. This model has been endorsed by the Government of India and recommended to all States across the country for consideration in their TPDS reform efforts. [photo|645324]

The TPDS 3S model can be fully adapted given specific State level contexts. WFP worked with the State Government of Odisha to test, design and share TPDS best practices. This work included testing state-of-the-art technology such as biometric authentication. The TPDS 3S model is based on WFP’s work in Odisha, as well as other best practice examples from across the country, and was developed together with the Government of India.

In 2014, WFP began working with the State of Kerala. One of the main areas of technical support included assessment of their supply chain network and recommendations on ways to improve, and subsequently, set-up a door-to-door delivery system. An in-depth analysis identified three main flows of their supply chain:

  • Flow of information (authority letters, stock reporting, release orders),
  • Flow of grains (physical movement, transportation, loading/unloading), and
  • Financial flow (buying/selling price, additional commissions, subsidy payments)

Based on the analysis of these three flows, recommendations were made to undertake a simulation by modelling its network to allow an optimization of the overall TPDS supply chain. This analysis recommended the optimal network and illustrated possible options, such as more focus on appropriate storage, quality control procedures and better optimization of transportation.

Another key recommendation was the adoption and implementation of a comprehensive supply chain management software solution, which would allow stakeholders to automate various routine tasks and forecast the movement/requirement trends. In addition, a comprehensive dashboard would be able to report against Key Performance Indicators, enabling stakeholders to monitor and make appropriate decisions.

The Benefits of Implementing WFP’s 3S model across India
The proposed TPDS 3S model, which WFP is implementing in the States of Odisha and Kerala, is flexible and can be scaled-up. It would cost an estimated US$500-600 million to be implemented across the country, and is projected to result in savings of around US$1-2 billion. Nationally, these savings could total 8-10% of the current food subsidy, representing a recovery of the investment within less than one year.

India operates one of the largest food safety nets in the world. Through the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), the Government aims to provide around 800 million people with subsidized monthly household rations each year–that’s about 67% of India’s population.