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RRT Update: Bringing warehousing expertise to hurricane affected Caribbean

Mon, 2017-11-20 17:21

Inside a temporary storage facility on the Turks & Caicos Islands

UNHRDs Rapid Response Team, a logistics spearhead sent upon request during the unfolding of emergencies, was once again deployed to support the hurricane ridden Caribbean with warehousing expertise. Pino Semararo, UNHRD Brindisi, joined forces with his colleague Kelvin Wong, UNHRD Kuala Lumpur, in Haiti for five intensive weeks of operational support this September and October. After assisting with re-palletization and setting up a staging area there, the two expert logisticians visited a further four affected island states in the Caribbean, sharing expertise and facilitating the emergency response in the region.

Loading operations in Port-au-PrinceTheir first stop, Haiti, is usually on the receiving end of food distribution. In the aftermath of hurricane Matthew, infrastructure was put in place to facilitate the receipt of food and other relief items – not their distribution. Here, Pino and Kelvin teamed up with Nuru Jumaine, the local WFP Logistics Officer, to reconfigure the facilities for dispatch. Mr Jumaine explains the unique circumstances under which they operated: “The aircraft used (a DC8) requires configuring the air pallets in a certain manner for which there was no expertise within the Country Office or Port-au-Prince ground handling companies.” By drawing on their warehousing experience, the two RRT members were able to set up a successful air bridge in cooperation with Samaritan’s Purse, a US based NGO. “Without the support of Pino and Kelvin”, says Mr Jumaine, “the DC8 would have spent at least 10 hours on the ground in Port au Prince instead of 2.“

After food distribution from Haiti was secured, the two logistics experts continued their mission, visiting the Turks & Caicos islands, Antigua, Dominica and Barbuda. In these heavily impacted areas, local infrastructure necessary for receiving food aid and other relief items Temporary shelter under constructionhad been diminished by the storms. To rapidly restore local infrastructure capacity, the RRT members assisted in setting up mobile storage units (MSUs) and prefabricated buildings. These temporary shelters are essential to local humanitarian actors to receive, store and redistribute food aid, while native capacity is rebuilt.



MSUs being set up in the Turks & Caicos Islands

Providing on-site assistance for both the dispatch and the receipt of humanitarian cargo requires a highly-specialised skillset and the RRT draws on the extensive expertise available in UNHRD hubs around the world. The unique scenario of converting a “receiving end” into a distribution hub in a matter of hours tested the competency and creativity of the early responders. Its success demonstrated the benefits of having experts on the ground providing first-hand insight and guidance. Pino Semararo, who called the operation an “extraordinary success”, hopes it will be a precedent for future knowledge sharing activities.