Responding to emergencies is what WFP does best - we are often the first agency on the ground during a crisis, in large part thanks to the skills and local knowledge of WFP's logisticians. And to get food to the hungry, the WFP logistics has to negotiate some very tough terrain. An emergency often requires a cargo drop from aircraft or a helicopter airlift, but there are other options too. Here's what the WFP Pakistan logistics team did in the 2012 floods in Sindh and Balochistan...
Heavy monsoon rains in north Sindh and Balochistan in early September quickly developed into a flood crisis across the affected areas. Nearly 5 million people were affected by the floods, displaced from their homes, left without access to food and key health services.
The route linking Sindh with Balochistan was a bottleneck for the emergency response operation. Food assistance could be trucked to Jacobabad from the Karachi port and elsewhere, but the route from Jacobabad to Jaffarabad was under five to six feet of water.
In an effort to provide a one-month food ration to 10,000 families in Balochistan’s Jaffarabad and Naseerabad districts, the logistics team led by the Head of Logistics (Sindh), Ahmad Al-Assad launched an exploratory mission using 4 x 4 vehicles and boats, to assess all possible means of delivering food assistance along the route between Jacobabad and Jaffarabad, a distance of 20 km. The conditions meant that tractor trollies were the only means capable of delivering the food along the submerged roads.
WFP logistics decided to mount a trial convoy of tractor trolleys. A total of 28 metric tons of food, enough to provide rations for 500 families, had arrived in Jacobabad on 26th September from Sukkur logistics hub. The food was loaded on to eight tractor trollies and covered with plastic sheeting to keep the water out during the journey.
There were serious doubts as to whether the tractors could make it through the flooded sections of the road. The drivers had to negotiate a very narrow muddy road for more than five km even before reaching the flooded section. The convoy nevertheless forged ahead and eventually made it through - in six hours.
All eight tractors reached their destination and the food assistance was delivered to Jaffarabad for distribution to affected people who had until then been completely cut off.
After the success of first mission, another convoy of 32 tractors was arranged the following day. The logistics operation lasted for nine days utilizing a total of 367 tractors and trollies, moving 560 tons of various food commodities, enough to provide a one-month ration to more than 70,000 people.