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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:

  • 70 aircraft
  • 20 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.

Key Logistics Documents

Logistics Latest

The first batch of 10 trucks arrived in Goma, North Kivu province from Kampala, Uganda, at the end of September. They have been used to transport 100 tons of food for recently-displaced people in Walikale territory. The 20 remaining trucks are expected to arrive in DRC before the end of November.    

"WFP greatly appreciates the generosity of the Russian Government and is thankful for this contribution, which will enhance WFP’s fleet operational capacity in DRC," says WFP Country Director Pablo Recalde.

Photo:WFP/Jacques David

Russian generosity and WFP logistics expertise

"The Federation of Russia appreciates WFP’s dynamism and efforts in the fight against hunger in DRC,” says the Ambassador of the Federation of Russia, Igor Evdokimov. “We welcome this cooperation and hope that the Kamaz trucks, top of the world in their category, will support the noble objectives of the WFP in DRC."

WFP already has a fleet of 28 DAF trucks, which have been used on the country’s tortuous and dilapidated roads to deliver much-needed humanitarian aid over the past 10 years. The number of trucks was insufficient to cover all operations. If well-looked after, the trucks have a lifespan of about 40 years. 

Photo:WFP/Jacques David

The Kamaz trucks’ first mission took place on the Kashebere-Kibua-Mpofi axis in Walikale territory in North Kivu. Since July 2015, the area has been home to nearly 17,000 recently-displaced people who fled their villages following clashes between Mayi-Mayi armed groups over the control of mining areas.

WFP distributed food assistance to the displaced in August and September through its partner World Vision. The third and final distribution took place in October. The trucks overcame all the traps of the North Kivu’s ruined roads and accomplished their mission on time and with success. 

Photo:WFP/Jacques David

As part of a 218-truck donation by the Russian Federation, these Kamaz vehicles -- valued at US$21 million – are allowing WFP to respond quicker and more efficiently to meet humanitarian needs. So far, around 70% of the trucks have been delivered, and are now transporting WFP food in countries such as Afghanistan, Central African Republic, DRC and South Sudan. 

In addition, this donation is helping WFP to strengthen regional truck fleets based in Ghana and Uganda, which are able to rapidly deploy trucks to fill gaps in local transport capacity, reaching those in need with food assistance as quickly as possible.

Visit the country page to read more about WFP operations in Democratic Republic of Congo


The Government of the Russian Federation has donated 30 KAMAZ trucks to the World Food Programme of the United Nations (WFP) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to facilitate food deliveries and distributions to vulnerable people and the provision of services to humanitarian partners in hard-to-reach and crisis-hit areas.

The food came from the warehouses of the Ministry of Education in Managua, the capital, about 630 kilometers away. In Alamikambang, the main town of Prinzapolka, the food was transferred from trucks to boats that will carry it along 160 kilometers of navigable river.

The educational community of 41 schools are waiting for the food, in order to prepare meals for 2,500 children attending classes in harsh conditions. These remote communities lack basic services such as water, electricity and telecommunications; Also shortage of classrooms and teachers. The river is the main means of communication, everything is transported through it.

The technical assistance provided by WFP to the Ministry of Education includes support for recruitment of transport service and distribution of food to schools. As part of monitoring the transport service contracted, WFP logistics team accompanied by educational technologists in Prinzapolka oversees the delivery of food.

WFP/Sabrina Quezada

Logistics monitoring

This area from the Autonomous Region of the North Caribbean is mainly inhabited by Miskito ethnicity, as a result of the mixture of Native Americans, Europeans and Africans. Although with them are the Mestizo population of African descent, they are a minority.

Carlos Valdivia is the carrier in charge of transporting the food. It's his first time in the Prinzapolka River and he is in the process of hiring the boat transport in the rustic river port Alamikambang.

For the Miskito, it is a good opportunity to rent their boats and make money. Not only they know every nook of the river like the back of their hands, but the few available boats belong to them.

Water transport involves a number of risks due to strong currents and constant rains; with some small boats and low power engines, the danger increases. Hiring a good "boatman" (pilot of the boat) knowledgeable about the river, of the 37 communities and their leaders, it is a good starting point for the carrier because of the absence of communication for quick assistance in emergencies they become the only salvation.

The Technicians of WFP and the Ministry of Education embark on a ten-day journey on the river visiting the Miskito and mestizo communities monitoring the delivery process of the food, verifying that it has been delivered the precise amounts in each school, and in good conditions and in the set time.

WFP/Sabrina Quezada

The organization and planning is done in Managua, but it is necessary “to get our feet wet “and spot check the food to make sure it´s effectively reaching schools. We cannot pretend that all the logistics runs as scheduled without verifying that this is being done," says Manuel Vargas, WFP's logistics team.

The logistics monitoring also reveals if the carrier knows the area and the location of schools, if the food is properly handled during transport, including protection of the sacks with plastic bags on the boat transport, to avoid damage. It also provides the opportunity to receive feedback from community members to improve distribution.

This story began after Valdivia, the carrier, negotiated the price of the boat transport with the Miskitos. Since he does not understand their language, and they prefer not to speak in Spanish, he failed to take advantage in negotiating and had to pay more money for each shipment.

"Nothing to worry about," says Vargas "What Valdivia payed to outsource the boats it does not represent an increase in the cost of service for which he was hired. The carrier won the bid based on a rate that cannot be altered. Is a guarantee for us and for the Ministry of Education" he adds.

At dawn the boats depart from the dock to the communities loaded with food, navigating the majestic Prinzapolka River.

Logistic Supervision at the Prinzapolka River

The river weaves while the motorboats advance with their heavy loads consisting of bags and boxes of food that follow a long journey to 37 indigenous communities in one of the most remote areas of Nicaragua: Prinzapolka.

What was your motivation for taking such a radical step in your life?

I reached a point in my personal and professional life where I was reflecting on the objectives of my life. I had been very fortunate to have achieved success at a reasonably young age, whether financial or otherwise.

Our organization was an industry leader and the question for me was: "What is my purpose?" "What is my motivation?" "When I reach the age of 60, 70, 80, what does "winning" look like for me?". I certainly didn't feel it would be reflected in the amount of money I had in my bank account or how many assets I owned.

[quote|"When I reach the age of 60, 70, 80, what does "winning" look like for me?". I certainly didn't feel it would be reflected in the amount of money I had in my bank account or how many assets I owned.]


I started to explore ways in which I could use the gifts that I have been given for the benefit of others. My decision to step away from my corporate responsibilities and do a different thing was not sudden – it evolved over several years. Thankfully I have a very supportive family. I explained to them that I wanted to try and use my experience and my talents to help others.

Was it easier for you to make a life-changing decision like this, as opposed to other people, as you had presumably made yourself financially secure?

Having money may allow you some additional flexibility in your decision making, but it does not make life-changing decisions any easier. I am not able to comment on the motivation or capacity of other people. However I can assure you it was not an easy decision for me to leave my family and the work I was doing, to pursue an objective I knew very little about. 

Also, it is important to note that volunteering does not have to mean changing one's life. Everyone has the ability to dedicate part of their time to supporting others. It is not a question of how much money you have – it is a question of desire. If you can only spare a small amount of your time, that is great. If you are in a position to contribute more of your time, even better.

Why did you want to volunteer for WFP?

I began researching. I knew about the United Nations and I'd heard about the World Food Programme but I didn't know the details.


I approached WFP and said: "I have specific skills in supply chain management. You move an enormous amount of food in many different countries. Let me come and assess your supply chain and identify ways that I may be able to assist you".

How did things develop from there?

I joined WFP on a handshake and an informal agreement that I would work for six months as a volunteer. I never expected this would become such a passion. Neither did I anticipate that I would be involved for over three-and-a-half years.

We don't often get the chance to change an individual's life, let alone the lives of tens of thousands of families. People say: "How can you volunteer? You are getting nothing to do this". What they don't understand is how richly I am rewarded in ways other than money. The past four days, spent in southwest Uganda, were some of the proudest experiences I have had in my life.

How did you try and improve the work already being done?

I didn't anticipate seeing such levels of post-harvest food losses in the developing regions where WFP was working. It was alarming to find out that everything that was causing these losses had nothing to do with agricultural inputs. It had everything to do with logistics following harvest. 

Photo:WFP/Immaculate Nalinnya

The procedures for transporting crops, the way they were being cleaned and dried prior to storage, and, most importantly, traditional household storage, were not of the right standard.

So I worked with some senior managers on a proposal. I suggested: "Let me show you how, if WFP can apply its logistical infrastructure and deep field presence, it can address food losses in a way that no other organization in the world has been able to do in the past".

How would you summarize your achievements?

We supported 16,600 farmers last year. This year, we are involving 41,000 farmers. We will be providing 840 workshops and we will produce and distribute more than 100,000 new pieces of handling and storage equipment to farmers.

WFP and our partners have achieved every one of our project goals in reducing post-harvest losses. This has not been achieved before in Africa. I like to think of WFP as leading the agricultural revolution for all developing regions.

How did you find the work of your colleagues?

That was challenging. I came with the private-sector mindset of just running through the wall. I had to understand that, for very good reasons, there are procedures that you need to follow. So the first few months required some adjustment on my part to understand the procedures of the Country Office.

The Country Director once said to me: "Simon, you are leading a development initiative but working with the urgency of an emergency operation!". We are now at a stage where I am far more respectful of the rules, but in fairness to the Ugandan Country Office team, they have worked very hard to find ways of providing rapid support to our project.

I was very impressed with the motivation and focus shown by the Ugandan staff, both in Kampala and at each of our offices.

What was the big challenge you faced?

The biggest challenge was the mindset of some Ugandans that Africans cannot perform at the same level as non-Africans. If I had accepted that thinking, we would have never set goals so high and we would have never achieved all of them.

What impact are you seeing from the work you've done?

I have been privileged to visit various groups of farmers who have been explaining to me the positive influence that WFP has made to their lives. They have literally been singing and dancing with joy!

[quote|"Various groups of farmers explained to me the positive influence that WFP has made to their lives. They have literally been singing and dancing with joy!"]


Many of the farmers have shared wonderful stories with me about the cleaner food they are now providing to their family, the extra food they have to eat or sell, the extra money they have made to pay for their children's education, buy medicine or increase the size of their farms.

Did you like Uganda?

I loved Uganda. I loved the people. I loved their joyfulness. If you go through my files you will see I have so many photos and videos of the happiness of the Ugandan people. I just love the culture. During our training, the people would sing and dance and I would often get up and dance with them. This is such a rich country, a place of enormous opportunity and potential.

What are you planning to do next?

I am leaving the Uganda office but I am not yet leaving WFP. I cannot walk away from our project. I just mentioned to you the scale of our work in 2015. Even though a new team of leaders has come in to take the project forward, I have offered to remain available – remotely or electronically – and to come back if need be, to support them over the coming months.

Then I will see in the New Year what the next challenge will be for me. In the interim, I need to re-acquaint myself with my family. It's over three years that we have been apart.

How do you see the future of Uganda and its people now, are you optimistic?

Agriculture is both the largest employer of people and the largest source of family income in Uganda, so the need to eliminate the current levels of post-harvest food loss is of paramount importance. 

What WFP and partners have shown is the potential benefit of launching initiatives across all farming regions. The current problem has little to do with the capability of Ugandan farmers and everything to do with insufficient guidance and education. I am extremely confident in the ability of Uganda to become a net export nation of quality crops, rather than a nation reliant on importing food from other countries.

See also:
How Can Reducing Post-Harvest Losses Support Food Security?
SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction


Why I Gave Up My Job As A Major Company Boss To Volunteer For WFP

What motivated the Managing Director of one of the Southern Hemisphere's largest logistics and agricultural organizations to give up his job and volunteer for WFP? As he completes a three-and-a-half year assignment with WFP, based mostly in Uganda, Simon Costa explains why he made such a drastic change, which involved being away from his family for three-and-a-half years, and how his work helped to produce unprecedented results in tackling food losses in Uganda.