1. Tell us a little about yourself and where you’ve gone with WFP.
I started with WFP in 2004 as a TNT “Feed the World" volunteer in Malawi. The very next year, I established the first of North Star Alliance’s Wellness Centres, which are strategically-placed roadside health clinics along Africa's transport corridors. In 2006, I went to Kenya for just three months and stayed three years. By 2009, I was in Rome where I was part of the Pandemic Planning team. I also was deployed to support Logistics Cluster emergencies in Myanmar and Pakistan. In 2012, I was reassigned to Somalia and now here I am on mission in Liberia. Overall I have worked in more than 20 African countries in the past 18 years.
2. We understand you were deployed to Monrovia about two weeks ago. What is your role there?
I was asked to go due to my experience with the Pandemic Planning team. Initially I was requested to simply get to Liberia ASAP. When I arrived, it was quickly apparent that I should focus on organizing WFP’s food deliveries throughout the country, which will soon be significantly scaling up. On certain projects, I’m also working with the Logistics Cluster, which is providing support and coordination to the humanitarian community across West Africa.
I also really wanted to go to Monrovia as this was a unique response, not just for me but for WFP and everyone involved.
3. Have you had any moments there, or en route to Monrovia, where you wondered if you made the right decision?
No, I was never in doubt. Due to the pandemic projects I worked on in the past, I understood the virus transmission and personally, I had no worries.
In fact, I consider myself very fortunate to be part of the response team. It’s not every day that we respond to an emergency of this kind.
4. In your first few days there, what shocked you the most?
The rain. In Somalia, we are lucky if it rains once a year. In Liberia, we are lucky if we have a dry day!
5. What is the most challenging logistics task you have received in Liberia so far?
Since the 1st of July until the end of August, around 43,700 people at Ebola case management centres and quarantined communities have received food from WFP in nine of Liberia’s 15 counties. We’re still distributing food in West Point and Dolo’s Town, and are monitoring these distributions on a daily basis. When completed, approximately 57,000 people will have been reached. At the same time, we’re preparing to significantly scale-up food distributions as I mentioned before, as well as manage the numerous requests from humanitarian partners to provide and set-up mobile storage units… We’re working around the clock!
6. How is this crisis different from the others you have supported?
Given the nature of this emergency, this is quite different to anything else. You drive around town and it’s difficult to grasp the concept that this is a country gripped by a barely visible crisis. For example, everyone must wash their hands upon entry to all buildings and shops. I have my body temperature taken at least five times a day. Shaking hands is no longer acceptable, so now we ‘seal a deal’ by touching elbows. It’s quite unusual how quickly old habits change.
7. In a situation like this, one can imagine there must be a level of strength amongst the community. Is there anything in particular that has moved you?
I am amazed by the local Liberians, who are understandably very concerned about what is happening in their country. Despite this desperate situation, the Liberian people remain dignified, and are unbelievably kind, polite and helpful to all of us.