WFP FITTEST's work in emergencies is well-known but in Dubai’s IT Emergency Preparedness and Response hub, the team develops technologies and solutions to ensure that food reaches those most in need, fast. The latest solution is the LESS mobile connectivity kit. Read more
A unique view of all the ways WFP is assisting millions of people worldwide.
The path to delivering LESS mobile connectivity kits has been long and the team involved has overcome its fair share of challenges. With the third wave of the kits on the brink of being rolled out in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the team can heave a collective sigh of relief. But have their efforts been worth it?
Held in Dubai from 09 to 11 February, 16 WFP IT emergency responders sat around a table for eight hours a day having frank and sometimes heated discussions over where improvements might be made and how. With nothing but bad coffee for sustenance, participants split into mini working groups to thrash out issues.
Enrico Vigliani, RITO in the Regional Bureau in Bangkok, jokingly described this Lessons Learnt that covered a typhoon, an earthquake and the Ebola outbreak across three countries as a "mission impossible". However, he said: "This Lessons Learnt will improve IT emergency response in future operations by getting more and more pragmatic with actionable items, names and deadlines."
[quote|“This Lessons Learnt will improve IT emergency response in future operations by getting more and more pragmatic with actionable items, names and deadlines”]Similarly, Bhawana Upadhyay, IT Officer in WFP CO Nepal who was in Kathmandu during the earthquake last year and played a central role in the subsequent emergency response was positive in her view of her first Lessons Learnt: "The IT Lessons Learnt exercise on Nepal Earthquake Response was a great opportunity for me to look back and reflect on what really worked well and where we need to improve in the future if we face a similar situation. I was truly amazed to find that each emergency is treated with so much importance even after it's over. And yes, we are accountable for how we perform and that our contributions are recognized."
While most of the ground rules established on day one were long forgotten by lunchtime, by the end of the exercise, a solid set of action points had appeared on the screen in front of everybody with owners and timelines attached, as if by magic. While some people still simmered with frustration over the lack of real change stemming from previous Lessons Learnt, the hope is that the agreed action points will pave the way for true improvements in the next emergency response. Only time will tell.
Spending three whole days in an echoey classroom in a dusty warehouse discussing problems and mistakes made isn't everyone's idea of fun. But in the emergency world it's a necessity and this is why a Lessons Learnt exercise covering Vanuatu, Nepal and West Africa was planned.
More than 14,000 kilometres later and jet lag kicking in, Rob was driving along the usually scenic King's Road on the way to the capital, Suva. Under the scudding skies of South Pacific, the impact of the cyclone, two weeks ago now, began to unfold: trees were down, electricity masts battered and many houses damaged. Read more
After spending a few hours running around the warehouse in Dubai packing the vital IT equipment needed to respond to Tropical Cyclone Winston, Rob Buurveld was soon settling in to an 21-hour trip to Fiji. A senior IT specialist in the Fast IT and Telecommunications Emergency and Support Team (FITTEST), WFP IT's emergency response team, Rob was deployed to carry out a number of critical assessment missions spread over three groups of outer lying islands which saw the full impact of Winston's power.
It operates like any other market except the shoppers are carrying colorful pieces of paper that they can exchange for food. Yellow is for corn flour, red is for beans, blue is for salt, orange is for rice and white is for cassava flour.
The pieces of paper are vouchers provided by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to support Burundian refugees who live in the camp. A year ago, WFP was providing food assistance for 9,500 people, but because of continued instability and violence in Burundi, that number has almost doubled to 16,000 people.
Instead of WFP directly providing food to the refugee families each month, local traders are invited to participate in this food fair and the refugees are given the vouchers to exchange for food. It allows refugees to choose the food according to their preference, rather than receiving the same food each month. It also boosts the local economy and cuts WFP’s food transport and storage costs.
LATE MORNING. The traders, who’ve come from the surrounding area, have finished setting up their stalls.
One man has tied a scale from the roof of the tin shed to weigh bags of food, while another has lined up large bottles of cooking oil on a wooden table.
“From the beginning, the traders showed an outstanding enthusiasm and they very quickly organized the sheds and the shelves of foodstuffs for the fair within the camp,” explains Marc Zihalirwa, WFP Programme Officer in Bukavu. “The community members like to be able to choose their own foodstuffs. It is a different scheme than the classic assistance where we would provide the same food in a monthly distribution”.
LUNCHTIME. By lunchtime the place is buzzing as people exchange their vouchers with the traders and haul away large sacks of beans and flour for their families. “I almost feel like I am in a market in my village!” Aristide, a refugee from Burundi, says smiling with both hands holding a big sack of flour balanced on his head.“I can go from one shopkeeper to another, check the quality of the produce and see if there is space for negotiation.”
“The community’s satisfaction with the food fair is tangible,” says WFP’s Magdalena Lesjak, who works as a Cash and Vouchers Officer in DRC. “The local economy is stimulated because we work with the merchants and shopkeepers from the region. And it reduces WFP’s costs for food storage and transportation”.
Nevertheless, it’s still possible to make improvements. For the future, WFP plans to roll out SCOPE, a new data processing system that will help in the identification and registration of community members. “Thanks to this new technology, we’ll be able to manage information much faster and easier, instead of using spreadsheets that we fill in by hand,” Magdalena says.
The food fairs are organized by WFP with its partners African Initiatives for Relief and Development and the United Nations’ refugee agency UNHCR. The fairs are only possible thanks to funds coming from (in alphabetical order): Canada, the European Commission‘s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), Japan and Switzerland.
See also on: http://panorama.wfp.org/market-day
EARLY MORNING. It’s six in the morning and the first traders are arriving at this market in one of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s refugee camps. This one, Lusenda, is located in South Kivu, close to the Burundian border. But this market is unlike others – for a start, it’s called a food fair.
Since being declared free from Ebola by the World Health Organisation on 17th March 2016, the responsibility for coordinating responses to national emergencies has been transferred from the interim National Ebola Response Center (NERC) to the Office of National Security (ONS). To augment national capabilities to prepare for and respond to future emergencies, the World Food Programme (WFP) has started to carry out a series of trainings to build the capacity of ONS, supporting Government ministries and development partner staff. WFP will also work in direct partnership with communities to enhance preparedness to flooding and other environmental shocks.
The first of a series of trainings took place between 18th and 21st April 2016 in WFP’s purpose built training facility at the Main Logistics Base (MLB) in Port Loko. The training, which was facilitated by WFP staff, combined classroom lessons, hands-on exercises and practical simulations on supply chain, logistics planning and assessment, sea and port operations, engineering services, emergency ICT and telecommunications provision and humanitarian air services. The training was attended by ONS and UNICEF staff.
“A good disaster response is delivered swiftly, effectively, at the right place, at the right time. Effective response is grounded in thorough preparedness, careful planning and identification of teams and partners together with delivery mechanisms and supplies. WFP’s Port Loko MLB reduces expensive air-lifting of assets, cuts down on procurement processes and also, most importantly, familiarizes in country response teams with equipment. Closely partnering with disaster management authorities in these areas is a step in the right direction,” said Peter Scott-Bowden, WFP Sierra Leone’s Representative and Country Director.
As the lead for the Support Services Pillar under the UN ‘No Regrets’ approach, WFP continues to provide logistics support managed from the Port Loko MLB which has a storage capacity of over 19,000m³. WFP maintains the ability to respond to future EVD outbreaks with prepositioned rapid response modules which are stored at the MLB. These modules contain ICT equipment, mobile storage units and office prefabs, generators and ablution units to enable WFP and its partners to establish emergency operations centres for frontline staff coordinating a response within 96 hours of notification. Maintaining this lean, rapid response capacity is essential to ensure that Sierra Leone can sustain a “resilient zero” of Ebola cases. This will also confirm that the country’s Ebola Recovery Strategy can be effectively implemented to support socio-economic recovery.
“This training is well orchestrated to suit the interest and needs of the Office of National Security to enhance the soft skills of the institution to be in the driving seat to effectively respond to future emergencies,” said John Rogers, Director of Office of National Security.
Special Operations activities, including trainings of emergency partners, are funded by Finland, United Kingdom, USA, Switzerland and Norway.
The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa was the largest global public health crisis in recent history, with over 8,000 cases confirmed in Sierra Leone alone. EVD had a devastating impact on individuals, families and communities, claiming the lives of almost 4,000 people and causing widespread socio-economic disruption. In order to contribute toward preventing future outbreaks and to strengthen the ability of Sierra Leone to effectively respond to crises, WFP is supporting national disaster management authorities to develop their capabilities in emergency preparedness and response.
In Burkina Faso, rural communities are exposed to natural disasters such as droughts, floods and infestations, which have become increasing frequent and severe with climate change. The effects of these shocks reduce agricultural production, which is essential to maintaining their livelihoods. Local populations also have insufficient access to basic social services such as health care and education and face high population growth, gender inequality and rising prices. With these difficulties, household food and nutritional security has been progressively eroding.
WFP supports activities to help households in these rural areas develop land to support agro-pastoral production, support food security and increase community and household resilience.
In order to better understand and respond to community needs and expectations as well as to improve their participation in the decision-process for resilience activities, WFP developed the CBPP approach. It also promotes coordination and cooperation among partners who intervene in the area in all sectors. Through the process, WFP and local communities identify obstacles to development and resilience-building and propose solutions. The outcome of the exercise is a community action plan that is prepared and approved by both community and stakeholders.
CBPP experts from headquarters in Rome and Regional Bureau in Dakar traveled to Burkina to train WFP Burkina Faso staff and its partners and lead this first exercise in country.
After CBPP objectives and methodology were presented to participants, the practical exercise was able to begin in Banogo. Community representatives defined and identified four socio-economic groups (from poorest to wealthy) in the village. During group discussions, participants identified technical itineraries, seasonal calendars, previous shocks and their frequency, coping mechanisms and local institutional actors. They also discussed how shocks impacted each socio-economic group, by age and gender. Community members led a guided tour of Banogo, allowing participants to see firsthand available resources and potential areas for development and complete a village mapping exercise.
For Charles Tankoano, president of APDC, “the CBPP exercise will stimulate the community. It brought many different actors together in support of the community in order to implement an action plan for development and resilience. It will allow each partner to intervene in their domain of expertise and bring their actions together in a collective effort to improve resilience for residents of Banogo.”
Community members identified land degradation, lack of off-season economic activities and floods that block access to the local health center as their main challenges.
According to village resident Marie-Jeanne Lankoandé, “We [community members] were able to participate in discussions and identify activities to reinforce our resilience and help get us out of poverty.”
The contributions and involvement of local actors and WFP partners over a three-year period will help the community of Banogo implement the action plan developed during the CBPP exercise.
In order to better contribute to reinforcing community resilience and food and nutritional security, WFP has developed a diagnostic and planning approach based on community participation. A training and practical exercise on “Community-Based Participatory Planning” (CBPP) took place from 4 to 8 April 2016 in Banogo, East region. State centralized and decentralized technical and NGO staff and local community members participated in the exercise, which was organized by WFP partner “Appui à la promotion du développement durable des communautés” (APDC).
WAGHIMERA, Ethiopia – The first time 4-year-old Gebru’s mother took him to a health centre in Amhara last year, he was so sick with a bad cough that he could not eat properly. He did not recover after the first rounds of treatment for malnutrition.
“A few weeks after that, during a visit by health staff to our house, he still had low appetite,” explains his mother, Aseketema Tsegaway. “I took him back to the health centre, and after four rounds of treatment his appetite improved,” she adds. “He was playing again and was physically stronger.”
Right now, Ethiopia is in the midst of what many believe to be the worst drought in decades, which has affected at least 10 million people and sharply increased malnutrition rates.
Like hundreds of thousands of children under the age of 5 in Ethiopia, Gebru made it through a stage of moderate acute malnutrition thanks to specialized treatment from WFP. That treatment was in turn made possible by crucial financial contributions provided by donors at the end of 2015, as the scale of the drought crisis was becoming clear.
“A few donors understood last year that, if we were to avoid the worst in Ethiopia, they would need to contribute funding immediately. With these contributions, WFP was able to buy from WFP stocks of specialized nutritious food already available in the region and to act quickly to prevent children falling into severe malnutrition, a life-threatening condition,” said John Aylieff, WFP’s Country Director in Ethiopia.
That highly fortified blended food is vital to nutrition support provided through WFP’s Targeted Supplementary Feeding programme, known as TSF, which treats moderate acute malnutrition among pregnant women, new mothers and young children, all of whom are particularly vulnerable to the long-term effects of undernutrition.
Canada has played an important role in supporting the TSF programme with a contribution of US$2.7 million in November.
“We have a strong presence in Ethiopia and we follow closely the evolution of the drought and its impact on food security. It was important to contribute early on to the crisis response in order to avoid a further deterioration”, said Kati Csaba, Head of Development Cooperation at the Embassy of Canada in Addis Ababa.
Canada not only provided assistance for nutrition at a very crucial stage but also contributed US$15.7 million for general relief food distributions, which help drought-affected families meet their basic food needs.
“This assistance makes an immediate difference to those most in need, including Ethiopia’s poorest and most vulnerable, and will help to build longer-term resilience to drought and similar shocks,” Csaba added.
More than 10 million people have been affected by one of the worst droughts that Ethiopia has seen in decades. However, Ethiopia has been successfully fighting off one of the largest emergencies currently affecting the African continent thanks to solid humanitarian structures throughout the country and strong government leadership; the Government of Ethiopia has invested close to US$400 million of its own funds to the drought response.
But for a crisis of this scale, an international response is necessary, and WFP’s funding situation remains highly precarious.
“We are really close to the edge, and have only a few months’ worth of resources to continue providing this sorely needed assistance,” said Aylieff. “Additional funds are needed urgently to save lives and prevent the erosion of Ethiopia’s hard-earned development gains. It’s not too late to act.”
In addition to Canada, donors to the WFP drought response in Ethiopia include (in alphabetical order) Australia, Canada, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Czech Republic, ECHO, Egypt, Germany, Ireland, Japan , Norway, Switzerland , UNA Sweden and the United States of America, as well as the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and a number of private donors.
When families struggle to get enough to eat at a time of crisis, children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of malnutrition. WFP’s specialized nutrition support has been a vital part of the response to the ongoing drought crisis in Ethiopia.
ADAM produces a “virtual dashboard” as soon as a disaster strikes, featuring details such as the magnitude of an earthquake, the number of people potentially affected, weather conditions and the WFP resources available in the area. It is already making a dramatic difference in reducing the time between disaster striking and WFP’s response.
“We were receiving lots of requests from other organizations for ADAM to be made available outside WFP,” said Project Coordinator Andrea Amparore of the Emergency Preparedness Branch. “This will now allow other organizations to have essential information immediately, and improve the overall humanitarian response.”
Subscribed organizations will receive an automatically generated email, while individuals can follow on Twitter @WFP_ADAM and receive automatic tweets with key information.
The Shake Map
Meanwhile, the introduction of a new feature, the Shake Map, is set to further increase the effectiveness of ADAM. The map is sent out one hour after the initial alert dashboard, providing an early estimate of damage through assessments of the geology structure and soil consistency in the affected areas.
“It’s hard to estimate the real effects of an earthquake just from the magnitude,” says Amparore. “The Shake Map helps us to have a clearer idea of the damage on the ground in the very initial phase of the emergency, enabling us to better tailor our response.”
ADAM works by pulling together information from sources including the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System, the US Geological Survey and the World Bank, as well as from WFP databases. The ADAM dashboard is automatically produced when a disaster registers over a certain scale.
"In the past, all these operations were performed manually and were time-consuming for staff," explains Amparore. "This reduced the time available for further detailed analysis and affected the speed of our response."
Reducing the time lag
Since its launch early last year, ADAM has meant a reduction in the time between a disaster striking and the moment when WFP takes action. “Within 12 minutes of the earthquake in Ecuador last month, ADAM had sent out its dashboard – long before the media even started talking about it,” says Amparore. “Instead of hours, we are talking about minutes in terms of being able to gather information. In an earthquake situation, minutes mean lives.”
The system comes at no additional cost to WFP, as it has been developed with open-source (free to use) technology. ADAM is currently active for earthquakes, but an expansion is planned next year to include monitoring of tropical storms.
WFP will present ADAM at the World Humanitarian Summit taking place in Istanbul from 23 to 24 May 2016.
Find out more
Follow ADAM on Twitter @WFP_ADAM (active from Friday 20 May).
Humanitarian Agencies/Institutions can subscribe to email alerts from http://geonode.wfp.org/adam.html.
WFP’s Automated Disaster Analysis and Mapping system (ADAM) is being opened up to other organizations in a move that can improve the collective humanitarian response on the ground.
WFP shares the Foundation's goals, since better access to food and improved nutrition are critical pillars in efforts to achieve Zero Hunger.
This is why you will find stories from WFP on the Foundation's website (direct links below), including on school meals in both Kenya and Lebanon, and a blog post from Nutrition Division Director Lauren Landis about nutrition for mothers and children in Chad and beyond.
To see how you can become involved in the Food Revolution, visit the Foundation's website.
WFP is supporting Food Revolution Day on Friday 20 May as a means of helping tackle child malnutrition. The day forms part of the wider Food Revolution – a global campaign run by the Jamie Oliver Foundation to inspire positive change in how people access, consume and understand food.
Memories of a dark night
The night of the earthquake caused major panic in the capital Quito. Phone batteries were running down as the day was ending, there was rising concern from not knowing family’s whereabouts, and rumours of fallen bridges in the city.
My wife and my two daughters were with me and we were okay. That was the most important factor at that time, so we were able to move on to the next step. There was no time for more worry that night, so I headed to the office with my family.
WFP colleagues were accounted for but Susana (Susy, as we call her), our co-worker who lives in the earthquake zone, could not be found. In addition we had professional matters to tend to – we had to report the situation officially to the Panama Regional Bureau. Arriving at the office, I found my colleague Lili working. I was very glad to see her safe. Locating Susana and knowing that, despite losing her home, she was alive, was also a huge relief.
Information started being released but it did not convey the grave reality of the situation. We started to work as a team: my daughter Camila, who is nine years old, took notes of what she considered relevant television broadcasts concerning the emergency.
My little helper made sure that all the details were consistent and I compiled her notes into a report. She asked: "Did you put in your report what I just wrote, daddy?" My wife, who is a journalist, was the first to filter out the importance of the information recorded. As for my little six-year-old Emilya, she fell asleep and found refuge in her mom's arms.
[quote|"Did you put in your report what I just wrote, daddy?"]
The notes from Jorge's daughter. (Photo:WFP/Jorge Arteaga)
WFP's immediate response
The next day the news felt like a bucket of cold water – in the two most affected provinces, there were so many deaths, injuries and destruction... and my cousin and his family missing.
The WFP team meeting explained the role we would play in the response. I was assigned to the Emergency Operations Committee, whose presence and coordination were key to WFP's initial response. Immediate support was required for 20,000 people in need of food and more than 1,100 injured and their families. Nearly 5,000 people were in hospitals and had to be fed.
WFP provisions reached the coast within 72 hours. Personally, it is a pleasure to serve those in need – so is being part of an institution with a vision of immediate humanitarian aid and technical support. That is WFP, and only today I truly understand that.
Photo: WFP/Alejandro Chicheri
The search for my missing family members continued – not knowing anything was creating panic and distress. On Monday 18 April the search continued. Work made the time fly faster. At half past two, I was preparing to step out for lunch with my colleague William, the first meal in two days, when a message with one sentence flashed across the screen: "Deceased, deceased". It was the news I had hoped would never come.
There was no time to mourn. There was too much work to be done. Meetings with military officials, vice-ministers and ministers, coordinating at all levels to bring our support to those most in need.
When reading the reports coming from the coast about the number of people receiving food and assistance, we all felt fulfilment and the satisfaction that it was our work that contributed to those results. It has been one month since the earthquake, and WFP’s support to people affected will continue.
[quote|"There was no time to mourn. There was too much work to be done."]
Photo: WFP/Susana Rincones
WFP has provided food assistance to people in the worst-hit areas, at the request of the government. The first assistance arrived within 72 hours of the quake. A delivery of emergency food assistance to support 12 hospitals in the badly hit province of Manabí arrived in Manta on 21 April. With markets and banks functioning in the most affected urban areas, WFP will now start a new form of assistance in coordination with the government, providing cash-based transfers to support thousands of families.
Visit the Ecuador Newsroom for the latest news on the emergency
The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Ecuador a month ago had a devastating impact, with more than 650 people killed, 7,000 injured and more than 500,000 in need of humanitarian assistance. Among those affected was WFP's Jorge Arteaga, who lost three family members in the quake.
Here he describes the immediate aftermath of the disaster, WFP's response and how he has played his own part despite his personal loss.