The Nuts And Bolts Of WFP (Staff Profile)

WFP Logistics Officer Alastair Cook in Myanmar in May 2008 following Cyclone Nargis. (Copyright: WFP/Natasha Scripture)

New Zealander Alastair Cook has been a WFP logistics officer since 2004, facing many challenging situations, including the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar. He says the toughest job he's faced so far was in Kenya, after the election violence had spread terror among WFP beneficiaries.

ROME -- I'm Alastair Cook and I'm a logistics officer. What does a logistics officer do?  It’s a very general term and can mean many things.  At WFP, the logistics officer is the nuts-and-bolts of an operation.  We’re the ones who are working in the field, working with all the particular stakeholders, including contractors and implementing partners.  We also work directly with emergency operations, supervising air and land transport, and in some cases even river and sea transport.

Although my duty station is Rome, I spent more than 300 days in the field last year. I worked on two emergency operations. The first was the Kenyan post-election violence, which was a very difficult operation. It was the first time I'd worked in a conflict-type situation and I realised that these operations are different to many emergencies because the people you're trying to help just don't stay in one place.

The next one was WFP’s Cyclone Nargis operation in Myanmar, which was a tragedy on an enormous scale. But at the same time it was extremely satisfying for the logistics team because we managed to set up a food delivery system which worked like clockwork for over three months.

Most of the time, my job is centred around emergency planning work. This is very important in terms of preparing WFP for when something big happens.  What we are trying to do is cut down the response time in a rapid onset emergency from what could normally take weeks into days and even hours.  The objective is to get the operation under way as quickly as we can – which can save many lives.