Photo Credit - Pieter van den Boogert

Since the early days of just one depot working with four Partners to a worldwide Network serving more than 75 humanitarian Partners, UNHRD’s growth has been fundamentally linked with Italy. Having received the 2016 Italian contribution to the Brindisi Hub in July, UNHRD wanted to take the opportunity to say thank you and look back on how it all began.

The very creation of UNHRD stems back to Italy’s history of stockpiling relief items for rapid deployment. From the eighties until 2000 the Italian Government hosted a humanitarian depot in Pisa that was managed by DHA (today OCHA) and stored relief items donated by the Government for the use of organizations like WFP and WHO. When the time came to relocate, as Italy needed to use the base in Pisa for its own activities, Brindisi was chosen for its strategic location and facilities, such as the airport, the port and the co-location with the UNDPKO Logistics Base. Over this time, as DHA became OCHA and its role  became that of coordinating, the Interagency Standing Committee of the UN called on WFP with its logistics expertise to take over this process as well as the responsibility of managing the new depot – and this led to the creation of the first UN Humanitarian Response Depot: UNHRD Brindisi.

Since then, UNHRD has transformed into a logistics platform to serve the humanitarian community, rather than a mere humanitarian depot. This innovative vision was possible in part thanks to the synergy with the Italian Government which inspired this new view.

Since the beginning, the partnership between the Italian Government and UNHRD has been integral and remains vital to the success of the Network. From the very beginning, funding the relocation from Pisa to Brindisi, to the everyday upkeep and operating costs of the Brindisi depot, this partnership has provided the backbone of the Network. With Italy supporting twenty staff working for the hub, UNHRD Brindisi also hosts the finance, administrative, procurement and customer service teams for the whole Network.

As the only depot for the first few years, Brindisi was busy with operations most days of the week and even had dedicated aircraft at the Brindisi airport to run its air transportation. The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs then invested five million euros in the rehabilitation of the former USAF Base in San Vito dei Normanni, which was originally going to be used to store UNHRD’s slower-rotating items and to host the many trainings it holds. However, since 2013 the base has also come to house the support office of all six depots of the UNHRD Network as well as the offices of the Brindisi hub. With 6600m² of covered storage space, 1200m² of office space, as well as multiple training rooms, sleeping quarters and outdoor areas, the base provided by Italy is a great space for both standard UNHRD operations and large scale emergency simulations, such as the Logistics Response Team training.

As well as being the biggest donor of the Network, Italy is also a very active Partner using UNHRD services. Around 80% of responses carried out by Cooperazione Italiana are run through UNHRD Brindisi. Italy has long been an active responder to emergencies and their support for UNHRD demonstrates another part of their contribution to the humanitarian community. Given its geographical location, Italy is in a strategic position to quickly respond to disaster prone areas in North and West Africa and the Middle East.

In the first half of 2016, Cooperazione Italiana sent nearly US$ 400 thousand of critically-needed supplies, such as health kits, to countries like Libya, Ethiopia, Burundi and Sierra Leone.

Both as a donor and an active humanitarian Partner, the relationship with Italy has been crucial to the success of the UNHRD Network and the team looks forward to a continued partnership. 

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