• WFP's Aviation Safety Unit Receives Award For Its Outstanding Achievements

    Exactly ten years ago on a cool November morning a WFP chartered twin prop aircraft lifted off from Rome's Ciampino airport en route to Pristina, Kosovo. Onboard were WFP staff, Italian citizens and personnel from several other humanitarian organizations including several from the United Nation Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). All had just made their way out of the city, along the roadway which cordons Rome and were on their way to a busy day inside the recent war zone. 

It was only months before that the fighting had ceased between Serbian nationals and Kosovar Albanians. The country was still raw from the fighting and that morning's passengers were some of the earliest arrivals helping to rebuild the shattered country. A short while later, after the flight had entered the airspace above Kosovo and as it made adjustments for its final approach, the plane dropped of the radar and disappeared without a trace. The aircraft would be found by search and rescue teams later that day on hilly terrain dotted with land mines near the Serbian border, a short distance from the town of Mitrovica. All 21 passengers and 3 crew perished in the crash. 

In the aftermath of the tragedy, which was later determined by French Accident Investigator Office (BEA) to be the result of a combination of organizational failures, human error and equipment limitations, the aviation unit at WFP undertook a rigorous review of its aviation contracting and operational procedures. At the same time the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)  began a review of UN aviation standards and the joint effort produced what are now known as the United Nations Aviation Standards (AVSTADS), a set of standards which now apply to all humanitarian and peacekeeping air operations. The past decade has seen the implementation and the relentless application of these standards to all aspects of WFP's aviation activities. As a result, the World Food Programme UN's Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS)  has been able to reduce the risk in its operational environment. The unit responsible for the review of all air companies providing services to UN's Humanitarian Air Service is the World Food Programme Aviation Safety Unit (ASU)  located at WFP headquarters in Rome. With satellite offices in Nairobi, Johannesburg and Sharjah, UAE the unit is overseen by the Chief of ASU, Cesar Arroyo. Cesar and his staff of aviation specialists monitor all aspects of WFP air operations on a daily basis including passenger and cargo flights at over 400 airstrips, helicopter sites and international airports around the world.

 As a result of the unit's hard work they were recently recognized by the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF)  for their outstanding efforts and awarded the FSF's President's Citation. At an award ceremony in Beijing on November 3rd Cesar Arroyo received the award on behalf of ASU and WFP as a whole stating, 

"Today, air operators chartered by the WFP have moved from “survival mode” to implementing the industry’s best practices. And, every single aircraft is equipped with a satellite tracking system, traffic collision avoidance systems, and EGPWS - even in small planes such as Cessna Caravans.  Pilots are proud to be properly trained and aircraft maintenance is done by appropriately authorized maintenance organizations."


 This award, received almost ten years to the day after the tragic crash in Kosovo, shows how seriously ASU has taken their responsibility and the extent to which they will go to in order to honor the memories of their fallen fellow staff members. Today, we celebrate ASU and all they have achieved.

  • First Person Account Of WFP Operations In Samoa Immediately Following September's Devastating Tsunami

    On the evening of October 5th, WFP Logistics Officer David Allen stepped off a plane on the island of Samoa exactly one week after a powerful tsunami devastated parts of the island nation. The following is his account of the humanitarian logistics response that took place in the days and weeks following the disaster. One thing that strikes me about David's account is his mention of Filomena Nelson and how it was best to just get "out of her way". Good logistics officers are adept at entering into a chaotic situation, appreciating what has been achieved by local teams and then figuring out how to best complement the system they have in place. By doing so you are often guaranteed a better result than if you were to just rush right and start trying to build your own system. Such sound judgment is often the result of years of experience blending with natural talent. We often champion the abilities of our logistics officers and their remarkable accomplishments but, in this case, what may deserve the most recognition is the seasoned judgment and well honed awareness that David brought with him when he stepped off that airplane. I think it is pretty clear that those skills are the reason David was chosen for the mission and why he was able to achieve in three weeks what could have taken others much longer. Please take a minute to read through David's account and I am sure you'll see what I am talking about. "Sitting here in the WFP Country Office in Colombo, Sri Lanka, with the sights and sounds of the staff going about their regular activities, and feeling the pleasant warmth of being in familiar surroundings. Yet I am strangely disquieted as I try to get my head around the events of the last four weeks, still recovering from jet-lag, the changes in time zones and too many flight connections. It’s been a whirlwind time which began, as is so often the case, with a phone call. At 06:48 local time on Tuesday 29 September, 2009, an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.3 occurred approximately 200 kilometres south of the island of Samoa, triggering a tsunami that hit the islands of Samoa, American Samoa, and the small island of Niauatoputapu in Tonga, resulting in fatalities, casualties and extensive damage to infrastructure in the affected island nations. The aforementioned phone call came to Colombo from the WFP Asia Regional Logistics Advisor, Paul Wyatt, on the evening of 30th September. Could I be released from my Logistics Cluster coordination activities in Sri Lanka to help out in Samoa?  After numerous phone calls and emails between the office and WFP HQ in Rome, it was agreed that I could be released for a three-week support mission in Samoa, so I threw some things in a bag and flew to Bangkok for briefings with Paul Wyatt before flying out on Monday 5th at 23:50 en route for Sydney, changing planes for Fiji, then changing again for the 90 minute flight from Fiji to Samoa, and the capital of Apia, arriving at 22:50 on Monday night. No, that’s not a misprint or an attempt at time travel – I crossed the International Date Line between Fiji and Samoa, and went from being 12 hours ahead of GMT (or UTC as it’s also called) in Fiji to 11 hours behind in Samoa. Believe me, I struggled throughout my time in Samoa to remember that, for the part of the world that I was in contact with on a regular basis, they were always one day ahead of me, and that on that 90 minute flight back to Fiji, I would lose a whole day. Having arrived at Apia airport, I waited in vain for my bag to appear – apparently lost in transit – so I filled out the necessary forms and eventually got to the hotel at 2 in the morning, where I had a fitful, jet-lagged rest for a few hours before going into the UN office and the Disaster Response room that had been set up. A flurry of introductions and meetings later, I went to the Samoa Government Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) set up at a Fire Station on the edge of town, and began to absorb the scale and complexity of the logistics operation set up by the Government’s National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) to respond to the disaster. Understandably it was a maelstrom of activity, with food and other relief supplies being loaded onto small vehicles almost as fast as they arrived at the station, and the NDMO Principal Officer, a lovely lady by the name of Filomena Nelson, looking like she needed to transform into an octopus to handle all of the phones, paperwork and demands for her attention. I quickly introduced myself and the reason why I was there, and just as quickly got out of her way to begin looking at how best I could support the fantastic efforts that had already been made. Could see that there were a few gaps in the logistics system that had been hastily implemented, and set about contacting all of the logistics people from the various organizations, both humanitarian and Government (Australia and New Zealand primarily), that were providing relief assistance, to get together the next day and try and coordinate our efforts in support of NDMO. This effort was helped no end by the presence of two New Zealanders from DHL’s Disaster Response Team who had arrived in-country a little before me and, from our initial talk and a following discussion that morning with the Prime Minister of Samoa, had got the green light for us to facilitate a logistics coordination forum run by NDMO. Obtaining this directive from the Prime Minister was the key-stone to getting the forum up and running so quickly, and made everything that followed so much more achievable. The fact that one of the DHL guys was effectively a local, having married a Samoan and also becoming a high-chief of one of the villages obviously helped immensely. So the following days blurred into each other as I set up and facilitated the logistics coordination forum of the tsunami response, linked the humanitarian response to the various National Government Departments (Customs, Port Authorities, Commerce Ministry as well as the NDMO) that would be key to ensuring an effective and transparent supply line for the response efforts, and generally tried to relieve Filomena and the NDMO of some of the burdens of an emergency logistics operation, since this was the first real test of their National Disaster Management Plan. One very important factor in the disaster response was the large expatriate community of Samoans in New Zealand and Australia – and therefore the enormous outpouring of support in the form of relief assistance from individuals, church groups and private enterprise that was destined to arrive in the Port of Apia in the days and weeks following the tsunami. The NDMO EOC would have quickly ground to a halt had the estimated 90+ containers been sent straight to the Fire Station, so I engaged with the local shipping agents to get their views, and they offered to store the containers temporarily at their warehouses and release them more gradually into NDMO’s care, ensuring that the EOC would not only remain functional in its role as a logistics hub, but could also manage a two-track system for the “solicited” and “unsolicited” relief assistance. I managed to steal an opportunity to assess the tsunami-affected areas of the island after 10 days on the island, and it was harrowing to see the destruction wrought on homes, communities, lives and livelihoods by the tsunami. More than the pain though was the outright admiration for the efforts that had already been made in cleaning up the damage, restoring power lines and repairing roads ravaged by the waves – a truly impressive achievement only two weeks after the event. Aside from this one field visit, I remained in the capital, and there were many long days that were physically and mentally draining – but in a way it’s incredibly easy to find reserves of energy to keep going when you see how much dedication and effort has already been given by the people of Samoa themselves. Events like these genuinely do bring out the best of human nature and community spirit. One of the numerous memories I have of my time in Samoa is that it is probably one of the most dedicated Christian communities I’ve ever been to, and Sundays are absolutely sacrosanct to the island people. Even the first Sunday after the tsunami (the day before I arrived), the international humanitarian community was told that it would be pointless to arrange delivery of relief assistance, because everybody would be at church, and so it proved for the few aid workers that went to the affected areas – nobody on the roads or in the evacuation zones, and certainly nobody to off-load or receive assistance. The aura of an oasis of tranquility amid the chaos was never more apparent than on the Sundays that I spent there. I did eventually get my bags back, though it took almost a week to locate and forward them, so it felt as if, no sooner had I unpacked and accessed all those little essentials of life like clothes and toiletries, than I was re-packing them again in preparation for the return journey. The initial emergency response was beginning to make way for the recovery/reconstruction phases and, having established the coordination mechanisms and logistics framework in support of the NDMO overall management, it would be possible for their staff to maintain and build on the momentum of the Logistics Cluster intervention. And so it was that I made that tortuous many-legged return journey from Samoa back to Sri Lanka to find myself back in the WFP Colombo office today - and probably not a moment too soon as a resettlement programme begins to take place, whilst the imminently expected monsoon rains threaten to turn the makeshift city housing more than 200,000 people in temporary shelters into a muddy lake that will prove a real challenge to supply the basic necessities for their existence. So there’s plenty to be done here for the coordination of the logistics efforts ahead, but without a doubt a small part of me has been left behind in Samoa with the islanders and their magnificent response to the adversities of a natural disaster. The Government, and the People, of Samoa can be justifiably proud of their achievements in responding to this tragedy with such aplomb." Special thanks to David Allen for his contribution!

  • TNT Provides Airlift Support To WFP In The Philippines

    Shortly after Tropical Storm Ketsana hit the northern Philippines and within days of Typhoon Parma making landfall on 3 October, WFP staff were on the phone with TNT personnel discussing with TNT the transport of 200 metric tonnes (MT) of High Energy Biscuits (HEBs) to support WFP operations in the devastated island nation. By 9am on 7 October, WFP Logistics Officer Irving Prado and TNT's Moving the World Project Manager Kimmo Laine had an agreement in place for the airlift of the first 100MT of the HEBs. A second load was to follow a week later as the aircraft being used for the airlift, a Boeing 747-400, could accommodate only 100MT given the flight parameters. Barely a week after Irving and Kimmo's discussions, the aircraft touched down in Izmir only to be immediately loaded with the Turkish produced HEBs and depart for Manila. While all this was taking place, the TNT and WFP teams on the ground in Manila were establishing the systems and infrastructure necessary to handle these massive air shipments. Working closely with the Philippino authorities, the teams identified storage facilities and established handling procedures for the goods. By the time the first shipment arrived, the team was well tuned having already offloaded a number of shipments of much needed boats and generators that were shipped out of the Brindisi UNHRD hub earlier in the week. The 747 landed in Manila at 02h00 on Saturday 17 October and the unloading process began immediately. The pictures you see above and to the left show ground crews working to unload the palletized goods from the aircraft's massive cargo hold. The second cargo flight carrying the last 100MT of HEBs arrived in Manila on Saturday 24 October. The biscuits were immediately distributed to the most affected populations in the northern areas of the country and were also prepositioned in advance of subsequent typhoons Lupit and Mirinae which hit the country the following month. TNT has provided WFP with support during a number of humanitarian emergencies, most notably during the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004. Through their Moving The World program TNT has backstopped WFP logistics teams in a number of countries around the world. You can read more about their first hand experience on their Emergency Response Team blog.                

  • The Treasures Of Mogadishu Port

    WFP teams in Somalia have been working hard these past couple of months to rehabilitate the port in - Mogadishu, Somalia. Considerable progress has been made with removing the debris left after years of conflict and by the destructive force of storms including the 2004 Tsunami. Vessels sunk in the harbor are being raised and channels choked with silt are now being dredged. New bumpers have been installed and repairs are bringing the piers back into working condition. The project has had to overcome serious security concerns and logistical obstacles. The loss of four WFP staff since August last year prompted WFP to take a hard look at activities in the country and the issue of piracy has also proved an significant challenge. On the funding side, the Mogadishu port project is facing a shortfall of roughly $2.5M. Even with all these challenges the WFP team on the ground has managed some incredible feats of logistical ingenuity. Currently, the team is scouring the bottom for wrecks on the seafloor and, when they come across one, winching the remains to the surface. One of the most fascinating finds has been whole sections of a tugboat that sank years ago along the dockside. The images below show that even after years of saltwater corrosion the debris was still a hazard to vessels attempting to navigate through the harbor. The remnants of the tugboat were lifted from 10 metres of water and are the first of several salvage operations planned for the port. Several other vessels are embedded in silt at the same dockside and will require additional efforts to free them from their watery graves. New navigation lights will also help to ensure that vessels entering the port in the future will not suffer the same fate as the sunken tugs. Training of port operators and pilots will help to further increase safety along the port's waterways. It is an impressive salvage operation that deserves recognition for its daring. Certainly the people of Mogadishu and Somalia as a whole stand to benefit greatly from the team's efforts. All photos copyright: WFP Special thanks to the WFP Somalia country team and all individuals involved with this Special Operation!

  • 'That Others May Live' - Part II

    In his second post from the field, WFP's Deputy Chief of Aviation, Philippe Martou writes to tell us about the role that he and his team played at the beginning of the week in an urgent food distribution program in the mountains east of Manila. The area was hit hard by Tropical Storm Ketsana in September and subsequent storms Parma and Lupit. WFP has airlifted food and resources into the region as well as two Mi-171 helicopters to assist with ongoing operations. Last week we covered the activities of Philippe and his team as they worked tirelessly to deliver food to remote and mountainous regions. With Philippe's latest installment we are fortunate enough to be able to feature some dramatic images from the operation and hear first hand what it takes to move food and resources deep into the field. WFP will continue to provide support for the foreseeable future. Yesterday afternoon, I was requested to join an urgent coordination meeting at the NDCC, the Philippines National Disaster Coordination Council. Present were representatives of NDCC, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Health, the Philippines Air Force, WFP Programme, the Logistics Cluster and WFP Aviation – UNHAS (United Nations Humanitarian Air Service). General Rabonza, the NDCC’s Executive Officer, opened the meeting by informing us of the existence of isolated and cut-off populations in Tanay, Cardona and Binangonan, urgently requiring relief goods. Those regions were hit by tropical storm Ketsana and, due to the additional heavy and unusual rains during the month of October, were still accessible by helicopter. We immediately decided to use Camp Capinpin, in Tanay, as a forward staging area for all flights to the cut off municipalities of Tanay, Cardona and Binangonan. Trucks with food and non food items were dispatched to Camp Capinpin during the night from various warehouses in Manila to. One helicopter was tasked to begin relief flights the following morning by continuing to carry relief items to the camp. Today we departed Manila with all our fuel reservoirs fully filled to allow as many rotations from Camp Capinpin as possible. The helicopters are unable to refuel in Camp Capinpin so the extra fuel is critical. We left Manila’s Villamor Airbase around 08:00 with one ton of food and flew to Camp Capinpin to pick up Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) personnel to support the distribution plan. The DSWD team and cargo (food and non food items (NFI’s)) were carried to Laiban, Tanay. We landed in an abandoned field between the mountains and had to chase off two water buffalo before being able to land. We off-loaded the cargo in record time and dropped off the distribution team after which we returned to the camp to pick-up the second DSWD team and two tons of food and NFI’s for Santa Nino. We found a sandy patch next to the river where we could land without too many problems. On the way back to Camp Capinpin, we picked up the first DSWD team from Laiban and brought them back to be ready for the next distribution. The best location to land in San Andres was another abandoned field and the one in Cayabo, a sandy patch in the middle of a river. Today, we flew rotations between Laiban, Santa Nino, San Andres, Cayabo and Camp Capinpin to deliver food and NFI’s to the people living in the cut-off area’s in Tanay. We returned just before sunset after having dropped off the DSWD teams in Camp Capinpin, to Manila, Villamor Airbase. Today, we proved again that WFP Aviation is there to respond immediately to the most urgent requirements for the most needful. It was a day well spent reaching cut-off populations and making a difference by saving lives. Tomorrow we are tackling the isolated area’s in Cardona and Binangonan. And yes, we keep our motto, 'That Others May Live' in our hearts and minds. -Philippe Martou

  • WFP's Relief Operations In Padang, Indonesia

    The WFP team in Padang, Indonesia has sent us photos of their work setting up operations at the local airport following last month's devastating earthquake. The earthquake, which destroyed homes in Padang and villages in the surrounding mountains, struck mid day on September 30th but the full extent of the devastation to region was not immediately apparent. WFP teams from Aceh and elsewhere in Indonesia immediately moved into Padang and began setting up operations. The photos below highlight their efforts. Along with images of destruction the photos also show the erection of a Wiikhall storage facility, unloading of humanitarian supplies from recently arrived relief flights and the reloading onto surface transport. An established network of resources allowed WFP teams to respond quickly with the necessary materials and equipment. (All photos copyright: WFP/Bambang Suseno and Wisdear Chong) Special thanks to Bambang Suseno, Wisdear Chong, Betty Ka and the entire WFP Indonesia team!

  • WFP Teams In The Philippines Preparing for Typhoon Lupit

    WFP teams in the Philippines are preparing for the arrival of Typhoon Lupit. The typhoon is due to hit the northern tip of the country tomorrow evening. We have pre-positioned 92MT (metric tonnes) of food, generators, rubber boats and other non-food items throughout the northern area of the island. Six trucks and two Mi-171 helicopters have been working for the last couple of days to move the materials into position. Philippe Martou, WFP Deputy Chief of Aviation, recently recounted a day of operations over on our sister site at WFP.org. While WFP has a permanent presence in the Philippines it has augmented the existing team with additional personnel to help with the WFP response to typhoons Ketsana and Parma. Those interested in UNHAS Passenger Procedures and Forms can access them here. The latest Situation Report from the Logistics Cluster can be accessed here. More information regarding WFP Logistics operations in the Philippines can be found here. (All photos: Copyright: WFP/Barry Came & Philippe Martou) Special thanks to: Esther Russell, Baptiste Burgaud, the entire UNHAS team and the WFP Philippines Country Office!

  • 'That Others May Live' - WFP Helicopters Delivering Food And Supplies In The Philippines

    WFP's Deputy Chief of Aviation, Philippe Martou, wrote us last night about his experiences in the Philippines where WFP is providing helicopter airlift support to relief operations following Tropical Storm Ketsana and Typhoon Parma. The two storms devastated the region in the last few weeks. A new storm, Typhoon Lupit, is currently bearing down on the waterlogged region and will hit within the next few days according to reports. WFP currently has two Mi-171 helicopters based in Manila that are shuttling aid workers and relief supplies to the hardest hit areas. The helicopters were transported to the area onboard the Russian built IL-76, one of the world's largest transport aircraft. You can see photos of the unloading here and more about WFP airlift activities here and here. Below is Philippe's first person account after a day of operations: Today, another day in the Benguet Province, Central Luzon. We started the day in Manila at 05:00 to ensure we would be able to perform as many flights as possible before the onset of the afternoon rains which at this time of the year come around 14:00 local time. Upon arrival at La Trinidad, Benguet University Centre, we quickly received confirmation of our tasking. We had to reach Mankayan, Bakun and Kibungan with Food and Non-Food Items (NFI’s) as soon as possible as those towns were in dire need of supplies. The towns had been cut-off from the outside world for nearly a week. First, we flew two rotations of 1.6 Metric Tonnes (MT) and 2 MT of rice to Mankayan where we landed at an abandoned airfield located close to the town. On the way back from the two rotations to Mankayan, we tried to locate landing sites in Bakun and Kibungan. As a result we ended up hovering between steep mountain cliffs with weather – clouds – closing in on us. Luckily, we managed to find a way out of the valleys and flew back to La Trinidad, Benguet University Centre. The site serves as a collection point for all relief goods that have to be moved to those by road inaccessible places.  Shortly afterwards we flew to Bakun where we identified a rice field which seemed suitable for landing. We managed to land on the field and dropped off 2.5 MT of family packs after which we returned to La Trinidad to pick up 2.8 MT for Sagpat, Kibungan. Of course there is no aviation fuel in all those places so we planned our refueling stop at Clark Airport on our way back to Manila. We landed in Manila just before 16:00. It is days like this that make me proud of what we do and make me forget all the problems and bureaucracy we sometimes encounter while saving lives. 'That others may live' is the motto of the Search and Rescue squadron whose installations we are using at Manila Airport - a very appropriate sentence to describe our work. Philippe Martou

  • UNHAS Helicopters Now Operational In The Skies Over Manila

    Last Friday, two Russian built Mi-171 helicopters were transported from Antalia, Turkey to an airbase in the Philippines onboard an Ilyushin 76. The UNHAS chartered aircraft began operating earlier today after being assembled over the weekend. They will be used to transport humanitarian cargo and passengers to areas hardest hit by Typhoon Ketsana and Typhoon Parma. Below are some photos of the unloading of the Mi-171's in Manila. We will post photos of the helicopters in action as soon as we receive them. Special thanks to the WFP Aviation team for the photos and info!

  • When a bucket is not a bucket - Standardizing relief items: Part III

    In Part I and Part II of this series we presented examples which made it clear why there is a need for standardizing the nomenclature and reference numbering of relief items. The initial need for this generic nomenclature was supply tracking. Common nomenclature enables aid workers to quickly and easily obtain an overall supply response overview during emergencies and to pull together total levels of the strategic stockpiles held by each organisation. We wanted to create a simple methodology but sometimes “simple” can be difficult to implement. However, not long ago ago we achieved our goal. The result was the interagency standard nomenclature for relief items. First of all, we determined that the nomenclature and the name are the same thing. We then produced a twelve digit standard for each item which is constructed as follows:  AAA BBB CCC DDD AAA is the three letter abbreviation of the cluster, e.g. SHE for the Shelter cluster BBB is the item category, e.g. TEN for tent CCC is the item family, e.g. COM for community tent DDD is the item identifier, e.g. HOT for hot weather community tent So the item reference is 'SHE-TEN-COM-HOT'. You can see how this is different from a 'hot weather family tent' which would show as: ‘SHE-TEN-FAM-HOT”. This used to be called 'Tent, family, 16m2, single fly w/ground sheet' by the IFRC, 'Light weight em. tent, 16.5m2' by UNHCR and 'tente familiale, 16m2, tapis + simple toit' by MSF. Now, with our new commonly accepted nomenclature we can finally call a bucket, a bucket! We agreed that we would maintain our own internal numbering structure for all of our own catalogs, procurement systems, labeling etc. supplying one master list of all the items. Each agency would then make a 'translation table' converting the common naming to the agency specific nomenclature. Who will make up the names and specifications for each item moving forward? It will mostly be an exercise between Logistics Clusters. It was agreed that each Cluster will coordinate the naming convention for their own items. Does that make us excited? You bet it does! We can now call a bucket a 'WAS-BUC-WAT-HAN'! and everyone will know that what we are talking about is a 'Water and Sanitation cluster, Bucket suited for Water with Handle'!