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Delivering aid in the midst of a crisis or building food security for vulnerable communities requires reliable, sustainable infrastructure. The lack or poor quality of roads, bridges, ports or airfields hampers the efforts of humanitarian agencies during emergencies. It also hinders development, leaving communities isolated and making access to food difficult and dangerous.

Thanks to a diversified, highly qualified technical capacity, specialized tools and a “can do” mentality, the World Food Programme (WFP) develops tailored, cost-effective and timely solutions to all these challenges.

Whether it is rehabilitating roads in South Sudan to improve food security and access; preserving food quality in Afghanistan through the construction of safe storage facilities; building specialized infrastructure for school feeding in Colombia or ensuring the safety and security of field offices in Pakistan, WFP engineers provide services in remote locations and under extremely challenging circumstances.

This function benefits not only WFP operations, but also the wider humanitarian community. This was seen during the 2015 Ebola outbreak, when WFP shared its engineering expertise with other humanitarian partners to build structures it had never built before – from Ebola treatment units to vehicle decontamination centres. In total, WFP built over 50 Ebola-related structures across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as well as a humanitarian air terminal in Dakar, Senegal, to support the transport of medical and aid workers across the region.

Engineering work can significantly contribute to cutting the cost of delivering assistance, and has exceptionally high returns on investment. In Chad, WFP rehabilitated an airstrip in Tissi, an area which during the rainy season could only be reached by helicopter. Over a period of 10 years, estimated savings amount to $5.2 million – a 7.7 return on the initial $680,000 investment.

Our engineering work bridges the divide between humanitarian and development activities. Whether stemming from an emergency or the request of a government for technical assistance, an investment in infrastructure is an investment in a country’s long-term food security.

Building roads in South Sudan

Since 2004, WFP has been working with local authorities to build roads that facilitate the delivery of assistance, as well as access to markets and services.