Brindisi operation - photo credit: Rein Skullerud

This story originally appeared on the WFP internal website. Text and photo credits: Andrea Kost and Simone Gie.

Staff in the UN Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) Network play a frontline role in emergency preparedness and response worldwide.

One of six depots in the WFP-managed network, Brindisi, in southern Italy, is a hub for buying, storing and rapidly moving supplies to emergency zones – providing a common service for WFP and a network of humanitarian organizations. 

By pre-positioning items such as medical kits, shelter items, ready-to-use foods and IT equipment, WFP and its partners can respond faster and more efficiently to people in need. In 2015 the depot dispatched USD 4.2 million worth of emergency supplies to support humanitarian efforts in 32 countries.

Brindisi is also home to the UNHRD LAB, a research and development unit that develops, reviews, optimizes and tests innovative products used in humanitarian work. 

Three colleagues tell us about their jobs.

Marta Laurienzo, Deputy Coordinator of the UNHRD Network & UNHRD Brindisi Manager

"Brindisi is the oldest hub in the network. We see the entire chain – from the negotiation of agreements with partners to procurement, storage and dispatch of emergency relief items to reach people in need. 

I oversee the operations in Brindisi as well as the support provided to the other UNHRD bases. There is no typical day, especially when we work in emergencies, but that makes the job interesting and challenging: Each operation is completely unique. 

Even after all these years, I still get emotional the moment an airlift takes off. When I think of it reaching families in need and supporting our colleagues on the ground, it feels very gratifying to be a part of this life-saving work."

Carmelita Peruzzi, UNHRD Assistant

 "When an emergency strikes, the requests are often tripled and the time to respond is much shorter, so admin staff have to be well-trained and well-rehearsed. 

When staff have to be quickly deployed, the UNHRD Brindisi Admin unit checks their vaccination, health and visa requirements through the Protocol and Medical service units in Rome, organizes short-notice travel and accommodation, and recruits temporary staff to replace them. 

I personally don't touch the ground of the field with my hands, but I am here to support UNHRD Network staff  wherever they are. I help to make sure their missions are safe and productive. I feel like I am with them along the way, and when they arrive safely it makes me happy and proud.

I don't feel like I need to be physically in the field in these emergency operations to help make a difference. There are many ways you can give. I know I'm contributing to the families who really need our support.

I often talk about my work with my children who are 4 and 5. I want them to feel the compassion that I do for people in need. For example, if I come home late from work, I explain that I'm working to give to children who aren't as lucky. 

I have also been the focal point for school visits. I had the chance to see how children, even in primary school, understand and react positively to WFP's message. It's clear they understand that this work is about building a better world." 

Jonas Bergmann-Paulsen, UNHRD LAB Engineer

"I work in the UNHRD Lab, where we identify and test innovative humanitarian products for use in emergencies and humanitarian operations. At the moment I'm working on rapid deployable staff camps, with inflatable tents for offices and accommodation, water-purification equipment, kitchens, toilets and showers. The camps will be self-sufficient and provide all the basic necessities for our personnel for the first few months of an emergency. 

The best part of my job is being able to combine engineering theory with practical and hands-on work. I am forced to analyse a challenge from every angle, thinking through the unique nature of humanitarian work – the harsh climate, terrain, and difficult conditions that field staff have to face to get to people in need. I love that every day I'm working towards solving problems and finding solutions for the humanitarian community."

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