WFP To Bolster Rapid Response In Asia

The WFP-run UN Humanitarian Response Depot in Brindisi, Italy.

(Copyright: WFP/Rein Skullerud)

WFP is setting up Asia’s first Humanitarian Response Depot in Malaysia in order to bolster the humanitarian community’s ability to respond rapidly to emergencies across the continent. Asia is home to more recurring natural disasters than anywhere else in the world.

SUBANG – WFP and the Malaysian government on Thursday signed a Basic Agreement to establish the first UN Humanitarian Response Depot (HRD) in Asia to support emergency operations by WFP and other agencies in the Asia-Pacific Region, and beyond. Read news release

HRDs are strategically-located centres operated by WFP on behalf of the entire humanitarian community and are designed to offer cost-effective storage, training, and perhaps most importantly, the deployment of critically needed items within 48 hours of a crisis striking.

“UNHRDs play a critical role in ensuring humanitarian response to a crisis is quick and cost effective,” said Kenro Oshidari, WFP's Regional Director for Asia. “Given the increase in natural disasters around the world, and particularly in Asia, the Subang base will be vital to saving lives in a crisis and ensuring WFP is able to do its job on the ground.” 

Strategically located

The UNHRD will be established at a military base in Subang, about an hour outside the Malaysian capital, and will be the fifth such hub in WFP’s global arsenal for rapid humanitarian response in the aftermath of a crisis. The Government of Malaysia has agreed to not only pay for the construction of the base, but also to contribute US$1 million annually to fund the UNHRD network.

The preliminary accord was signed in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday by  WFP Deputy Executive Director, Amir Abdulla, and H.E. Tan Sri Rastam Mohd Isa, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia.The ceremony (see photo above) marked the culmination of several years of negotiations between WFP and the Government of Malaysia over the establishment of an HRD in Asia.

Critical role in Haiti

WFP established its first Humanitarian Response Depot in Brindisi on 1 June 2000.  In 2006, based on WFP’s own needs and at its own cost, the Programme replicated the Brindisi model by creating a network of HRDs: Italy – to cover Europe; United Arab Emirates – to cover the Middle East; Panama – to cover Latin America; and Ghana – to cover Africa. Although the bases are designed for regional specific responses, all are equipped to respond to crises anywhere in the world.

UNHRDs have steadily gained popularity – from five users initially to currently 38. Users include UN sister agencies, NGOs such as Care, CRS, World Vision, Norwegian Refugee Council, IFRC, Islamic Relief, and ACF, as well as Governmental organisations like CIDA, European Commission, Irish Aid, Cooperazione Italiana, and the Swedish Rescue Service Agency. 

HRDs played a critical role in the days following the devastating earthquake in Haiti – not only were assets deployed from the Panama HRD, but due to the sheer scale of the crisis, Dubai, Brindisi, and Ghana all released supplies in coordinated rotations to assist in the response. 

With natural disasters on the rise around the world, the importance of HRDs can not be overstated. In 2009 there were 245 natural disasters around the world, of which 224 were weather-related.

(photo inset copyright WFP/Michael Huggins)