Lively, optimistic and personable. These are some of the words that can describe Qaseem Ghausy, the WFP Logistics Cluster Coordinator based in Sana’a, Yemen.
After the UN ordered the relocation of non-essential staff to Dubai on 23 September, there were only 7 brave souls left in Sana’a at the time -- three of which were logistics staff. With insecurity in various parts of the city, movement is restricted and undertaken only in armed convoys.
For those of you who are wondering, ‘what is the Logistics Cluster
?’, it’s one of eleven coordination cells, or “Clusters” that are made up of key actors from the humanitarian community. These eleven Clusters focus on humanitarian issues such as food security, health, water and sanitation (WASH), logistics, etc., and are “activated” in response to a sudden onset or complex emergency, which requires a multi-sectoral response with the participation of a wide range of humanitarian actors. Each Cluster has a lead agency
, and WFP is the lead agency for the Logistics Cluster.
In Yemen, the Logistics Cluster was activated in May 2010
to provide air passenger service to Sa'ada, ensure the uninterrupted supply of life-saving relief items and be involved in many other facets of the operation. During the 11 months in which the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS)
operated with service to Sa’ada, they flew more than 500 passengers from 15 U.N. and international NGO’s via 47 regular and emergency flights. One of the most recent tasks of the Logistics Cluster was to quickly relocate 60% of the UN Staff stationed in Sana’a and fly them to Dubai.
“We had to find and reserve the plane, obtain government clearance, make boarding passes for all passengers, organize three different checkpoints for them to go through at the airport, and even create baggage tags ourselves,” explains Qaseem. To make this even more challenging, it was all arranged on the same day of the flight, meaning that Qaseem and his colleagues had to organize all of this as they went along.
Even though it was the first time in which UNHAS had ever done this kind of operation in Yemen, you wouldn’t be able to tell.
Another aspect of the operation called for the Logistics Cluster to deliver fuel to the humanitarian community operating in Yemen. At a time when people were waiting for hours to fill up with fuel, there were also 35 humanitarian aid agencies looking to the Logistics Cluster for help.
“We worked really hard to put together a proposal to provide fuel to the humanitarian community,” recalls Qaseem. “All night long, we sat around a white board with
the WFP Yemen management and other logistics staff, planning how we could this.”
By the next morning, the team calculated they would need to purchase and transport 260,000 litres of fuel per month. But this was the easy part – the hard part led to another all-nighter, and there were two pieces to it. The first was figuring out where to find the tanks to not only store the fuel, but also a way to count the litres disbursed. The second was who to buy the fuel from. By normal standards in Yemen, a petrol station would take 6 months to set-up, but for Qaseem and his WFP logistics colleagues, it only took 3 weeks!
Although the Logistics Cluster in Yemen has been asked to take on a number of responsibilities, which would not be normally considered core functions of the Cluster, Qaseem and the rest of the Logistics team have continued to provide essential services for the humanitarian community.
*In the above photo, U.N. staff were relocated to Dubai, UAE from Sana'a, Yemen on 23 September and the other shows WFP fuel provision in action -- organized for the humanitarian community. Top photo credited to WFP/Youssef Yassin, bottom photo to WFP/Qaseem Ghausy