WFP Logistics: On The Front Lines In North Africa

WFP is using its logistics expertise to help the humanitarian community in North Africa assist the people fleeing -- and remaining in -- conflict-torn Libya. The agency is working in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi and on the Egyptian and Tunisian borders, organizing aid deliveries and building the pipeline to carry them. 

CAIRO -- As WFP and its partner, the Libyan Red Crescent, distributes food to some 7,000 internally displaced people in eastern Libya, staff are operating in Benghazi, the major city of eastern Libya, where enough food to feed more than half a million people has entered the country or been pre-positioned for use when needed. See the latest operational update.

Underpinning the food relief operations now under way in North Africa is WFP's emergency logistics team, which is building and improving channels for moving food supplies around the region.

 "The future of the public food distribution system in Libya is very worrying to us," said WFP Logistics Director Martin Ohlsen. "To the best of our knowledge, the food that is in the country is currently being consumed without being adequately replenished."

Life of a logistics expert

the foundation of a wfp structureLogistics play a crucial role in an emergency situation, especially one as volatile as the crisis in Libya. Omar Ali is a logistics officer with extensive experience in the region, who explains what it took to get the humanitarian relief operation up and running. Read more

The logistics operations are not just aimed to ensure speedy and timely WFP assistance in North Africa, but also to help the humanitarian partners who work alongside the food agency. 

Ready to move into Libya

Much of the logistics work and preparations for delivering future humanitarian assistance in Libya are taking place on the desert border areas of Egypt and Tunisia. 

In Egypt, WFP has already airlifted from Italy half a dozen prefabricated mobile offices for staff to operate from, along with six warehouses to store food, blankets, medical supplies and other humanitarian items. They will remain at Egypt's Salloum border with Libya as part of contingency planning to establish logistics operations inside that country.

WFP's logistics team has also secured 25,000 square meters of space in Benghazi to store food and supplies for the humanitarian community. Poised at Salloum border, too, are more vast, mobile storage units.

"We are now ready to move to Libya to further strengthen our team in Benghazi, as soon as we have safe humanitarian access to the country," said Regional Logistics Coordinator Bekim Mahmuti.

Every detail -- from handling cargo services of food and other aid, to assessing the capacity of local ports and facilitating customs requirements for vehicles and telecommunications equipment vital to our operations -- is critical. WFP's logistics staff is involved in all these aspects -- for both our organization as well as for other humanitarian agencies.

Helping our humanitarian partners

"We've drawn up a list of transporters and publicized it to the rest of the humanitarian community, so if they need transporters fast, they can just go on the WFP website and find the full list," said WFP's Tunisia logistics Information Officer Esther Russell. "And we can do custom-made logistics maps for any organization that asks."

In Tunisia, a three-member WFP logistics team based near the border has also built two mobile storage units - essentially large tents -- to store emergency warehouses for eventual operations in Libya. The tents also store supplies for other humanitarian agencies.

An essential part of the work is also ensuring food gets to thousands of people who fled Libya and remain in border camps in Tunisia and Egypt.

In Tunisia, for example, staff are finalizing preparations for WFP to take over all four kitchens that feed some 7,600 people -- mostly from sub-Saharan Africa and Bangladesh -- in Shousha camp, about seven kilometers from the Libya border. WFP has the capacity to ramp up operations to feed 20,000. 

Fleeing from Libya

Mai holding her daughters hand in a refugee camp

Mai and her family are among thousands camping out in tents on Tunisia's border with Libya, waiting to go home. Read more

Go here to get the big picture on WFP's emergency operation in North Africa.