In recent years, the World Food Programme (WFP) has been managing complex emergencies (such as the conflicts in Syria and Yemen), natural disasters (earthquakes in Nepal and Ecuador, among others) and epidemics and pandemics (for example, the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa). Emergency preparedness refers to a set of elements that allows us and our partners to be effective, efficient and timely when crises erupt. These elements are:
Early Warning systems. Derived from evidence-based analyses and risk assessments for conflict, natural or economic hazards which may affect current WFP operations or create new humanitarian needs, these inform decisions on resource allocation and operational readiness. Geographic Information Systems allow us to visualize information generated, collected or assembled from various functions within WFP. Targeted geospatial analyses show the immediate impact of natural disasters, focusing on affected populations and existing assets or ground operations.
- Inter-Agency support and coordination. Effective coordination among all actors involved in humanitarian crises clarifies roles and responsibilities; eliminates duplication of effort; ensures complementarity; remedies gaps; and facilitates information sharing, collaboration and joint planning.
- Civil-Military Coordination. As military forces are increasingly deployed in humanitarian settings, the UN’s Inter-Agency guidance on Civil-Military Coordination provides the standards for our operational interactions with national and international militaries.
Preparedness aside, the emergency response itself remains WFP’s area of highest impact. A range of structures and resources ensure mobilization, management and accountability when responding to a crisis – but also that our responses are strengthened and improved for the future. These include:
- Our global supply chain capacity. Our operational agility and ability to innovate and expand networks enable us and our partners to reach vulnerable communities in some of the most inaccessible locations, reduce delivery times and save costs – whether it is food, cash, or a combination of the two. When disaster strikes, we deploy operational experts and provide immediate support through the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service, the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depots network, the Fast Information Technology and Telecommunications Emergency and Support Team, and engineering services. WFP provides coordination in emergencies through the Logistics and Emergency Telecommunication Clusters, which store and transport urgent relief items to affected populations, and set up connectivity in the most remote areas.
- Our Operations Centre at Rome headquarters. OPSCEN, as it is known, facilitates communication and coordination in emergencies. It includes a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week hotline for country and regional directors to report critical incidents and share information. OPSCEN also facilitates inter-agency coordination through connections to the UN information exchange network, which includes other UN operations centres and the Geographic Information Support team.
- Operational information management. WFP generates a Common Operational Picture for itself, partners and donors. It supports the creation of timely, consistent and user-friendly products for WFP management and external audiences to assist decision-making; support fundraising and awareness-raising; help with wider humanitarian coordination; and document the progress of humanitarian responses. Quality operational information management and reporting helps WFP to be more efficient and uphold its principles of transparency and accountability.
- Lessons Learned. Fed by staff involved in emergencies, this knowledge management function allows us to gather and store response expertise, strengthen our capabilities and guide future interventions. It ensures that our capabilities are strengthened and that future interventions are informed by up-to-date normative guidance.