Food rations are seen here on an assembly line, being packed into individual boxes. Each family receives a 50kg package with an assortment of food items from WFP. Copyright: WFP/Simon Hacker
Simon Hacker is a Logistics Officer based in Syria, and is part of the team managing the expansion of WFP’s emergency response. We got the chance to talk to him about the rapid scale-up and what this means in terms of logistics. Here is what he had to say:
Since the beginning of the operation, WFP Syria has seen its beneficiaries increase from 50,000 to 1.5 million. At the same time, with intermittent border closures and clashes throughout the country, the operational environment is becoming more complex. This volatile context has required a retooling of the logistics strategy in order to respond to an increasing number of people in need.
As local commodity markets became unpredictable and trucking contractors were hesitant to deliver to the many food distribution points within Syria, the logistics team had to set up a flexible corridor network to cope with large international procurements. Using alternative shipping routes to Latakia and Tartous, opening a formerly used Lebanese corridor through Beirut port (not used by WFP since 2004) and establishing a staging area across the border in Irbid, Jordan (20km far from the Syrian borders) is now allowing WFP to ensure sufficient food stocks for our beneficiaries.
However, the corridor strategy only tells one part of the story. Unique in the WFP Syria operation is that before delivering the food, all bulk commodities must pass through Damascus for further packaging into boxed rations. Every family receives a diversified 50kg family package of up to ten items. Currently our two packaging facilities in Damascus can produce up to 450,000 rations per month – enough for over 2.2 million people. This month, a third packaging facility strategically located near Tartous port will be established, and aim to serve five Syrian provinces: Tartous, Homs, Hama, Idleb and Lattkia.
Supporting other UN agencies and NGOs has also been a key feature of this operation. Providing storage and transport, creating a fuel depot in Damascus, and establishing coordination mechanisms in Damascus, Beirut, and Amman have all helped to create a solid logistics foundation for the humanitarian response.
Future plans include introducing automated web-based solutions for packaging using Radio Frequency Identification Technology (RFID) which will allow WFP to track and scan large amounts of packages and their contents at once, making it especially effective for boxed rations.
Also planned is the introduction of an automated fuel supply tracking system (for fuel procured to humanitarian partners), and the establishment of an inter-agency humanitarian logistics hub near Tartous – this is intended to improve the regional food deliveries from Turkey through negotiating a direct call of vessels through Tartous port for some shipping lines. By allowing ships to bypass intermediate ports, this will shorten the lead-time for food supplies to Syria by 50%.