Disaster zones; besieged cities; remote, famine-stricken villages – feeding the world’s hungry means negotiating extremely challenging environments, working around poor or lacking infrastructure, and thinking creatively to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
On any given day, the World Food Programme (WFP) coordinates an average of 5,000 trucks, 40 ocean shipments, 70 aircraft and a network of 650 warehouses to deliver assistance to people living in the most food insecure and inaccessible corners of the world.
WFP’s longstanding experience and its established presence in partner countries enable it to understand local economic dynamics; navigate bureaucracy; and find solutions that are appropriate for each context and agile enough to fit changing circumstances.
To the extent possible, WFP works with local private and public sector, strengthening rather than competing with it. So entrenched is this principle that we apply it even in the most extreme of circumstances.
At the onset of the crisis in Syria, very few logistics companies were willing to work across the country and many left for safer places. WFP joined forces with those companies who were willing to stay on and, in the process, not only built their capacity but encouraged others to return to the market.
As a result, WFP is now able to rely on 11 local transport partners for its operations inside Syria. WFP continues to use local workforce and storage capacity for the assembly of packet rations. These actions set off a positive domino effect on employment, build confidence and support shock-stricken economies.
On occasion, desperate times call for innovative measures. During the siege of the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor in April 2016, we used high-altitude parachutes to precision-drop pallets loaded with food, thus managing to deliver assistance in an area where aircraft risked being shot down. The food was collected and distributed by WFP’s partner on the ground, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.
Partnerships – with government, NGOs or the private sector – are an important part of WFP’s ability to deliver effectively and efficiently. In turn, WFP lends its well-developed and widely-recognized logistics network, experience and expertise to other humanitarian actors.
WFP also leads the Logistics Cluster, a structure that ensures logistics coordination, information management and the facilitation of shared logistics services such as storage and transport. First activated at the time of the Pakistan earthquake response in 2005, the Cluster has supported the logistics response for over 50 emergency operations including, most recently, in West Africa (Ebola crisis), Nepal, Yemen and Ukraine.