Running on a Full Tank in Yemen

WFP Yemen staff stand in front of the petrol center in Sana'a. Copyright: WFP

Sustained conflict and widespread insecurity across Yemen has pushed millions into crisis throughout the country. At the same time, a vast humanitarian operation continues to deliver vital assistance day in and day out. In 2013, WFP alone aims to reach approximately five million food insecure and vulnerable people.

by Edward Johnson

Given the current circumstances, casualties and damage to the country’s infrastructure are easily visible. But, a drive along the dusty streets of the capital city Sana’a also reveals a secondary problem. Increased demand on public transport and empty petrol stations has had an impact on the daily life of Yemenis, and possibly, the functioning of humanitarian aid operations as well. Since the fuel crisis began in 2011, prices have significantly increased and both petrol and diesel have become sought-after commodities.

‘’The fuel crisis is significantly impeding the entire humanitarian response in Yemen and shows no sign of abating,’’ explained Qaseem Ghausy, WFP’s Logistics Cluster Coordinator. ‘’The knock-on effect of UN agencies, and international and national non-government organizations struggling to find sufficient quantities of fuel is that operations are often down-sized or even cancelled.’’

Since May 2010, WFP Yemen has led the Logistics Cluster and pioneered a long-term humanitarian fuel provision service. Unique in this operation is that this is the first time WFP has provided fuel to partners of the aid community on this scale for this length of time--approximately two years. The unpredictable operating environment has also presented distinctive challenges in setting up a sustainable service, where WFP has designed and constructed its own fuel distribution system.

In addition to managing a widely utilized humanitarian personnel and cargo flight, which flies four times per month to Sa’ada in the north, WFP is meeting the fuel requests of 35 humanitarian partners throughout the country under its Special Operation. The fuel provision service significantly enhances the ability of many other organizations to sustain their life-saving operations.

‘’In Yemen, we are proud to be the first Logistics Cluster to implement a long-term fuel provision service and to offer guidance to other countries [which host WFP operations] through our own experience,’’ explained Qaseem.

In order to respond efficiently and effectively to partners’ requests for fuel, the Logistics Cluster created three storage units in Sana’a, Haradh in the north and Aden in the south. These units have a combined storage capacity of 380,000 litres of fuel, ensuring that stocks will always be available. Since its inception in mid-2011, the Cluster has provided an average of 22,500 litres of fuel every month.

WFP Yemen Country Director Bishow Parajuli explains that he admires the hard work of his staff, considering the challenging operating environment. “Even though the Logistics Cluster team faces significant infrastructure and security limitations, their ability to constantly perform has been outstanding.”

While WFP’s Special Operation continues, dozens of humanitarian organizations will never have to worry about running on empty.