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Logistics

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.

Every year WFP reaches more than 90 million beneficiaries in 74 countries. To achieve this goal, WFP relies on an impressive logistics capacity.

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 78 cargo 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 200 locations worldwide.

Download the WFP Logistics brochure

Logistics Latest

What I like about working with UNHAS South Sudan is seeing the number of humanitarians flying every day to remote and isolated locations. It gives me a sense of pride to know we are supporting life-saving aid. I feel so happy I am in a position to contribute to that. UNHAS South Sudan is a demanding and challenging operation; you are busy 24/7 and simply don’t see the time passing! As a woman working in the deep field, it has been a great learning experience that totally took me out of my comfort zone.

The most challenging part of my job is to deliver quality service to our users in a very difficult environment. For example, in my duty station of Rumbek, we use a tree as our ‘pre-boarding gate’ when we have lots of flights at the same time; we call it ‘the magic tree.’

The most enjoyable part of my job is the satisfaction of our passengers in reaching their destinations. When I see humanitarians from different cultures and backgrounds, carrying their tents and what little they have, to some of the most difficult locations on earth while still smiling at you, it is a source of daily inspiration that makes me believe even more why we’re doing the work we do. Their dedication to save lives is admirable, and it motivates me to do more.

In South Sudan, WFP operates its largest humanitarian air operation. Through the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), around 8,000 aid workers are able to reach over 40 remote and isolated locations each month. UNHAS staff operate a fleet of 17 helicopters, and small and medium-sized aircraft to make this possible.

Persistent insecurity and tough living conditions make it a difficult place to work. Nicole is an Air Movement Officer with UNHAS in South Sudan, where she is reminded every day why she has this job. Here she explains what motivates her in this challenging environment.

It's quite dark here when a myriad of small busy silhouettes appear under large external spotlights. A digger excavating trenches suddenly comes into view. Concrete mixers are pouring fresh cement into wheelbarrows that come and go to finalise the alleys. On a roof, a man is nailing the last few rows of hardwood, while another tirelessly saws the planks in a mechanical gesture. It feels like a well-oiled machine, yet this is a first for all partners involved in the construction site.

In the heart of Forest Guinea, Nfali Soumaoro's teams work day and night in a race against the clock to finalise the Nzérékoré Ebola Treatment Centre before handing it over to ALIMA, a small French NGO founded five years ago by a bunch of former MSF staff. 

In one of the worst-hit areas of the country, the challenge is to finish the construction of this centre in less than 30 days in an unprecedented crisis where time is constantly catching up with all actors on the ground.

Adaptation here seems to be the key word. "What you are expecting on Monday might happen on Sunday or Tuesday -- you always have to be flexible," says Thierry Allafort-Duverger, ALIMA’s president. 

WFP, tasked by the Government of Guinea to build four Ebola treatment centres in the country in less than a month, has worked hand in hand with the government’s Ebola coordination cell and the medical humanitarian community to set this up.

[photo|644412] Here in Guinea it is a network of individuals, rather than a group of institutions, who have contributed their know-how to this project. 

Communication goes by first names rather than titles and is based on trust rather than decorum.

Almost half of the workers on the construction site come from three of the surrounding villages. In Louhoulé, less than a mile down the road, Seraphin, the leader of the community, was glad to learn that his village, where unemployment rates are high, would be able to contribute.

The site is close to sacred ground where the village's founder is buried. To avoid offending their ancestor, the village elders made an animal sacrifice to appease the spirits.

In Nzérékoré's main hotel, Alima has moved into what used to be a conference room and the alleys are full of logisticians, hygienists and doctors finalising briefings and practical exercises. 

It's the end of one leg and the beginning of another, as the first patients were admitted on 2 December 2014.

 

 

 

After 25 days of uninterrupted work, WFP has finished constructing an Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) for ALIMA, an NGO partner in Guinea. It is now the fourth operational ETC in the country. Venturing into unknown territory, WFP has adopted an integrated approach, cooperating along the way with global medical aid agency Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), ALIMA and the government of Guinea to lead this project.

In 2008, Aiedah took up her first assignment with WFP, working in her come country of Ethiopia.

“I chose to work in logistics because I was passionate about the way one could help people in need, and this job offered the possibility for me to make a direct contribution,” Aiedah says. Dedicated, driven and passionate about logistics, she likes big machines and complex operations.

In South Sudan, her wish for a challenge is answered every day. Flooded roads for months on end and persistent insecurity are just a few obstacles. At the moment, for example, the rainy season is coming to an end, and this is great news for the team who have been mobilizing helicopters to airlift supplies for humanitarian partners. To help carry out this work, the Logistics Cluster recently received a dedicated Russian Mi-26 helicopter, contracted by WFP. Unfortunately it had mechanical problems a week later. A few weeks after that, a replacement arrived, but the helicopter was temporarily grounded due to fuel shortages.

Such challenges confront the logistics teams in South Sudan almost daily. Solving them is a team effort, Aiedah insists.

“My current team is one of the best I have worked with since I joined WFP. They are a pool of fantastic people,” she explains. In turn, the team can also rely on Aiedah’s experience. Previous assignments with WFP involved contracting, warehousing, fleet, port operations, setting up logistics hubs and negotiating access in Somalia region (Ogaden), Haiti, Pakistan, Yemen, Egypt, Sudan and Libya. She is also one of the only female truck fleet managers in all of WFP.

How then, does Aiedah explain what she does?

“To family, friends and children, I say they should think about Indiana Jones and Lara Croft,” she says. “Like them, I also navigate minefields and hop on helicopters, but while they hunt artefacts, I find solutions in a complex and insecure environment to try to save as many lives as possible.”

In South Sudan, the WFP-led Logistics Cluster runs its largest and most complex operation, supporting the transportation needs for almost 20 humanitarian organizations by road, river and air. As the Deputy Head of the Logistics Cluster based in Juba, it was only natural for Aiedah to find her way here– she’s always been drawn to a challenge.