Trucks are being loaded onto a vessel headed for Cotonou and subsequently on to Niger. Copyright: WFP/Johannesburg.
The food crisis in Niger is currently WFP’s biggest concern. National, regional, cross-regional and intercontinental food aid procurements are converging to landlocked Niger to face the new operational demands. Thus, an increased transport capacity to rapidly deliver the incoming aid is a parallel imperative.
Hunger is an ever-present problem in extremely poor countries like Niger, but a hard drought last year has made a bad situation immeasurably worse. In July, WFP announced we are massively scaling-up our food assistance operation in the West African state to feed up to 8 million malnourished people. This new emergency operation will specifically target more children between 6 to 23 months of age to boost their nutrition with “protective rations” of staple foods.
In the immediate development of the capacity aspect of the operation, WFP country office in Malawi agreed to loan WFP country office in Niger 10 Isuzu trucks for a period of 6 months. Unfortunately, exporting the vehicles overland from Malawi to Niger is not really a feasible idea due to the high costs in time and fuel that the enormous distance would take (approximately 4,500 km or 2,800 miles).
Seek alternatives, devise back-up plans and create contingency plans is a core skill of any successful logistician working in developing countries. Innumerable are the reasons for plans going wrong: security, infrastructure, mechanical, political, laws, nature....
Coincidentally, the U.S. flag MV Advantage vessel was loading 16,300 metric tons of bulgar wheat in Durban port, South Africa, en route to Niger. WFP decided to take advantage of this opportunity: the trucks left Malawi on 2 July and were driven down to Durban. After inspection they were stowed as deck cargo on Hatch nr 5 and securely lashed down. The vessel set sail on 8 July and docked at Cotonou, Benin on 17 July. The entire vessel’s cargo arrived safely and the 10 trucks were discharged first from the ship. Insurance and registration issues have been solved.
Shipping trucks is quite unique for WFP logistics. This instance showed impeccable staff coordination and resource optimisation. By combining different capacities from different departments and country offices, WFP made full use of ALL of our resources, and it also saved the world some extra carbon emissions!
Many thanks to Michael Larkins, Elra DeJager, HeaShin Kim and the teams in Niger, Malawi, South Africa and Benin. Nice work, guys!