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Sourcing food from 93 countries, moving goods to more than 100 and delivering cash assistance to over 60, in an average year the World Food Programme (WFP)’s supply chain reaches more than 85 million people in need.

Given the complexities of running such a huge operation, good planning is essential to ensure we can help even more people with the same resources and manage on-time deliveries. The unpredictability of disasters and crises – which can make WFP needs spike overnight – and the difficulty of forecasting the ebb and flow of donor contributions make this function all the more important.

We have made a series of changes to make supply chain planning more flexible. These include better demand planning data, a variety of advance financing tools, and more diverse types of humanitarian assistance – whether it is food, cash or a combination of the two. Our end-to-end supply chain management enables us to intervene successfully in large and complex emergencies, including in insecure and volatile environments. In Syria, we were able to reduce lead times by 40 days since the start of the operation, by utilizing advance financing mechanisms that allow us to call forward urgently needed food commodities. 

WFP’s approach to supply chain planning is based on the principles of continuous improvement and collaboration, both within the organization and beyond – with private sector partners and governments. Our planning begins and ends locally. We seek to ensure that the people we serve receive more for each dollar spent by identifying the most appropriate way to deliver assistance; aggregating demand across regions and countries, as well as over longer periods (for example, through six-month or annual contracts, where WFP can negotiate better prices and delivery terms); optimizing our choices (for instance, analysing food basket composition, time and costs for certain delivery routes); and applying end-to-end transparency and effective coordination. Thanks to data and analytics, our supply chain planning capacity allows us to make informed decisions on potential risks and find out how they can be mitigated.