The head of the United Nations World Food Programme today paid tribute to the "truly historic" support from the private sector to the agency's emergency operations in the tsunami crisis, saying that without these generous donations, WFP would never have been able to hit its funding target so quickly.
WFP Executive Director James Morris said that private companies and individuals had collectively provided 20 percent of the US$256 million food relief operation for tsunami survivors, a record in the agency's 40-plus years of existence.
"It is exciting and inspiring for us to see such an unprecedented response from the private sector," Morris said, citing contributions to WFP ranging from helicopters to on-line cash donations to drinking water and logistics experts.
"The corporate world has stepped up to the plate in this emergency. It's making investments and getting actively involved in global relief and development. Aid agencies may need to start thinking differently about how to get the most benefit from their private sector partnerships," said Morris.
WFP's biggest long-term private-sector partner, the global mail, express and logistics company TNT, has placed its expertise and transport network at WFP's disposal in moving food, emergency response material and staff members to the affected countries.
Morris noted that in Aceh, the region nearest the earthquake epicentre, TNT supplied more than 100 trucks, two Mi8 helicopters, warehouses and its own logistics experts. TNT in Indonesia set up the WFP operations room in Jakarta and established a UN Joint Logistics Centre for the management of all humanitarian cargo.
"TNT has been absolutely indispensable to us in this emergency," Morris stated. "Without their help we would not have been able to act as quickly as we did. On behalf of the unfortunate people we are assisting, I want to thank our staunch corporate partners for the difference they have made to our response."
Morris said that while the list of private sector contributors was long, he wanted to highlight a few donors that have made a sustained contribution to the relief effort:
• Unilever, the UK/Netherlands multinational, gave US$500,000 and lent its consumer products distribution networks in Sri Lanka and Indonesia to move food to survivors. Unilever also donated trucks and trains in Sri Lanka and set up a disaster fund for cash donations by its thousands of employees around the world.
• Danone, the French food products company, gave a half million packets of fortified biscuits and 30,000 bottles of water as a contribution to the WFP response in Indonesia.
• The Indianapolis Colts football team gave US$50,000 and a further US$60,000 was raised by fans at a match between the Colts and the Denver Broncos on January 9.
• The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) rapidly sent its staff as volunteers to WFP's Bangkok Regional Bureau - the emergency hub.
Morris underlined that while he could not single out every donation from the private sector, each one was worth the same weight in human kindness. "Every donation, no matter how big or how small, is equally valuable to WFP," he said.
Following the December 26 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, the top Fortune 500 companies pledged over US$100 million to assist survivors within the first 12 days of the crisis. Many of those pledges were made in the first 100 hours, well before some governments had responded.
According to research by Hill & Knowlton, handled by Penn Schoen Berland, many companies described a grassroots movement, where staff spurred their management into action.
"We were especially pleased to note that our own corporate partners quickly rallied to help us, not only with offers of cash, but also with assistance in terms of transport, expertise and personnel."