More than ever before, the humanitarian community is relying on WFP’s logistics team as their ally in the fight against Ebola. International contributions are forthcoming and generous, but the success of this unique emergency response depends on getting critical supplies of protective gear, medical items, equipment and aid workers wherever they’re needed. WFP ‘loggies’ from UNHAS, UNHRD and the Logistics Cluster are working in overdrive. Meet eight of them in Liberia.
Alastair, a New Zealander, usually based in Kenya
Alastair was one of the first WFP staff to be deployed for the Ebola response. Was he worried about going? “Not really; Ebola is easy to get but also easy not to get if you follow the precautions.” Each day, he works at Monrovia’s international airport receiving and organizing the tons and tons of cargo arriving from around the world. “Often we have two or three planes landing per day, so we need to quickly offload the cargo to make space for the next one,” he says.
Soren, a Dane, usually based in Belgium
Logistics Hub Manager
One of WFP’s initial tasks was to set-up a central hub in Monrovia to store and manage supplies for the government, UN agencies and NGOs. Cargo is trucked from the airport and is temporarily stored there, ready to be sent out where its needed. Soren oversaw the hub’s development, beginning in the rainy season when the land looked like a swamp. His wife is a WASH expert and has previously responded to Ebola outbreaks with MSF Belgium. “She’s usually the one dressed in the full protective gear that I’m storing in these warehouses.”
Franck, a Frenchman, usually based in Madagascar
Logistics Cluster Coordinator
Not only is Liberia one of the most affected countries, but it also has the largest number actors responding to the Ebola emergency. So, coordination is key, and Franck knows how to coordinate. Each day, he works in the National Ebola Command Centre (NECC) alongside government, UN and NGO counterparts, trying to find ways to cover the country’s supply needs. “The virus is moving quickly and we don’t know what it will be like in the weeks ahead,” he says. “We need to be able to reach each corner of the country before the virus does.”
Harriet, a Liberian, usually based in Liberia
Administration Assistant for the Logistics Cluster
At school, Harriet studied sociology because she liked learning about people from different backgrounds and parts of the world. As Admin Assistant, Harriet currently handles travel documents and other requests for 25 other people ("and they travel a lot!") from over 15 countries. Her children have not been allowed out of the house since August. "I think they understand; my daughter takes my temperature every evening when I come from work before I enter the house," she says.
Michael, an Irishman, usually based in Ireland
In his free time, Mick renovates his 200 year-old home in Ireland. Right now though, he’s focused on the six remote logistics bases that WFP is setting up around Liberia to ensure a smooth flow of critical supplies into isolated communities. As an engineer, Mick identifies the sites and works with local contractors to make sure the bases are built properly. “In the planning phase, we factor in all elements from security and water to accommodation for the staff going to manage it.”
John, an Englishman, usually based in Italy
Remote Logistics Base Coordinator
Once the remote base sites have been identified, John visits them before the trucks and other staff arrive from Monrovia. He double-checks the site and meets with local authorities to discuss and confirm the plans. “It’s important that the local authorities pass on the message that we’re establishing a storage facility, not a treatment centre.” When the trucks arrive loaded with building material and equipment, John and the team immediately start clearing the land, erect the storage tents and fence off the area so the base is secure.
Blixt, a Swede, usually based in Sweden
Engineer for the Ebola Treatment Units
For the first time ever, WFP is building Ebola Treatment Units. WHO asked WFP to build four 100 bed centres in Monrovia, two of which are now complete and were opened by Liberian President, Ellen Johnson. “They’re like little cities, you have everything inside,” says Blixt, WFP’s engineer managing this special project. “There are wards, staff quarters, triage areas, spraying zones for ambulances, waste management areas and incinerators.” Apart from the construction, Blixt regularly attends community sensitization meetings, listening to their concerns.
Francisco, a Panamanian, usually based in Panama
Francisco thought he was being deployed to UNHRD in Ghana, but soon found out he was heading to Monrovia instead. He’s supporting the airport operations and currently overseeing a new temporary storage facility being built there. “My background is in maritime engineering, but working at the airport is quite similar,” he says. “We're just offloading a big plane rather than a big ship!”