2019 in review


Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, the crisis across the Sahel, and the earthquake in Albania; the protracted Ebola virus outbreak in DRC and the continuing crises in Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and Bangladesh. Every year-end, it is difficult to look back at the past twelve months and recount what we achieved by listing humanitarian crises, especially when so many of these are the same as the year before. It still gives some solace to scroll through our figures and realize that UNHRD has again played an important role; we delivered life-saving aid and support equipment that kick-started responses or helped move them forward, and the UNHRD Field Team was deployed to provide direct support on the ground.

Responding to crises in these volatile environments and complex settings becomes more challenging each year. That is why it is our duty to constantly review and adapt our work to meet the increasing needs. Supporting humanitarian partners by enhancing logistics collaboration and coordination is what we have been doing for the past two decades since our establishment in 2000. This would not have been possible without the continuous engagement of our donors who generously embraced the growth and development of the UNHRD network. Their support is what allows us to uphold our mandate of storing humanitarian items at no cost.

Because that’s what UNHRD is all about – having prepositioned stocks ready to be delivered wherever and whenever they are needed. For 2019, we calculated that those organizations who used UNHRD’s storage services saved USD 5.63 million, as opposed to using the commercial sector. At the same time, our donors have also allowed us to expand our service enabling us to meet the different needs of our now 90 partners.

In 2019, UNHRD focused on improving tools to allow partners a greater visibility of their stocks and operations through the newly launched Partner Portal, enabling greater transparency and accountability. In addition, innovative thinking at the UNHRD Lab has provided partners with tailored equipment, such as new cold chain storage solutions for specialized food and medicines for disease outbreak responses.

From our desks to the field, at UNHRD teamwork matters. Throughout 2019, in addition to deployments of the Field Team to support emergency operations, UNHRD staff were deployed to 11 countries to support logistics and training activities - you will read about a few of these missions here. This report also highlights capacity building activities in Kuala Lumpur and Brindisi, key logistics training centres in their respective regions. However, no single delivery could have been done without our colleagues dealing with important back-office functions. We are therefore once again highlighting some of our colleagues who, while behind the scenes, are at the core of our business.

UNHRD Shipments in 2019

UNHRD 2019 Numbers

59.9 million

61.7 million



40.9 million




Cyclone Idai

Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe

Preceded by severe flooding, Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique on 15 March 2019. With hundreds of thousands of displaced people also in Malawi and Zimbabwe, it is considered as one of the most damaging tropical cyclones ever recorded in the South West Indian Ocean basin.

When an emergency strikes, a collaborative effort is crucial. Supporting the response in the three countries affected by Cyclone Idai, UNHRD coordinated cargo consolidation and transport pooling for 20 partners over the next six months. Most of the aid dispatched was for emergency shelter, including 61,400 tarpaulins, 29,500 blankets, 28,000 solar lights, 13,500 mosquito nets, 8,000 mats, and 3,000 kitchen sets.

Five members of the UNHRD Field Team were deployed to Mozambique to install equipment and work with partners on the ground. More information on this mission is available in the section Field Team below.

Countries Served


Partners Served


Weight Dispatched

1,056 MT

Volume Dispatched

3,742.7 m3

Value Dispatched


Types of Cargo (% of total weight dispatched)

Transport type

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, generously donated four airlifts through the International Humanitarian City (IHC) at the onset of the Cyclone Idai response. Such airlifts are made available at a moment’s notice and have afforded UNHRD the possibility to offer partners multiple free-to-user transport options for emergency operations. Over the past three years, 16 in-kind flights have been offered by IHC to UNHRD to transport partners’ cargo.

WHO WFP Save the Children USAID World Vision
SDC IRC IHC Catholic ReliefService Care International Welthungerhilfe
ShelterBox Mercy Corps Lutheran World Relief Lions Club
Irish Aid Cooperazione Italiana Concern Worldwide Adra Action Contre LaFaim



The humanitarian crisis in Yemen remains one of the worst in the world. Nearly five years of conflict have pushed parts of the country to the brink of starvation, exacerbating needs in all sectors.

To scale up humanitarian activities in Yemen and meet the increased needs, WFP and the World Health Organisation (WHO) signed a strategic partnership agreement in 2019. In line with this, UNHRD stored temperature-sensitive medical and laboratory kits in Dubai, and arranged transportation by sea and land for cholera and other medical kits from WHO’s hub in Dubai to its warehouses in Yemen.

UNHRD also managed the delivery of 608 mobile storage units (MSUs) to WFP Yemen, providing 183,000 m² of warehouse capacity. If installed side by side, these would make up 18 km of a two-lane highway.

Countries Served


Partners Served


Weight Dispatched

2,396 MT

Volume Dispatched

8,607.2 m3

Value Dispatched


Types of Cargo (% of total weight dispatched)

Transport type


Ebola Outbreak in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo

Democratic Republic of Congo

In July 2019, WHO declared the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The DRC shares its borders with nine countries, with regular cross-border movement increasing the risk of the virus spreading.

In addition to supporting partners’ efforts in the fight against EVD in the country, UNHRD boosted WFP and WHO’s regional response plan in neighbouring Uganda by managing 25 consignments (equalling 147 MT) of stocks and deploying four staff members to Kampala to provide logistics support.

Country Served


Partners Served


Weight Dispatched

236 MT

Volume Dispatched

892.1 m3

Value Dispatched


Types of Cargo (% of total weight dispatched)

Transport type


Cooperazione Italiana

In April, the Italian Cooperation donated 40 MT of medicines, shelter and WASH items to Iran valued at USD 321,000 to assist at least 11,000 people affected by the flash flooding.

Since the establishment of UNHRD in 2000, Italy has been providing the premises of the Brindisi hub, funding its expansion and covering all running costs. Italy is not only a longstanding donor, but also a key partner since the Italian Cooperation relies on UNHRD’s services for stock prepositioning and emergency operations. Confirming this longstanding partnership, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MAECI), H.E. Luigi Di Maio, visited UNHRD’s original facilities in Brindisi in December, accompanying the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, in his first official visit to Italy. In February, UNHRD and the WFP Director of Supply Chain, Jakob Kern, also welcomed the visit of Vice Minister of MAECI, Ms. Emanuela Del Re.

In the response to Ethiopia, Irish Aid donated 51 MT of relief items to NGO partner Concern, including 5,475 blankets, 1,100 jerry cans, 6,100 mosquito nets, 2,800 tarpaulins, 2,000 hygiene kits, 3,153 kitchen sets and shelter toolkits.

Irish Aid has had an operational partnership with UNHRD since 2006, and is a key donor that provides annual and strategic funding to support UNHRD’s development and sustainability. Over the years, Irish Aid has also deployed six staff to UNHRD Accra working on the hub optimization and green technology projects – more information on the latest standby-partner’s mission is available in the Partnership section.

Irish Aid

Field Team

In 2019, the UNHRD Field Team was deployed to two sudden-onset emergencies: five field experts travelled to Mozambique in March and helped to kick-start the logistics response to Cyclone Idai; and three reached the Bahamas following Hurricane Dorian and worked on the ground for one month.

In addition, UNHRD staff also travelled to Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Panama, Sudan and Uganda to support in-country operations.


As Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique, five members of our Field Team immediately headed to Beira, the port city at the epicentre of the crisis. The team worked in coordination with key actors and partners on the ground to handle cargo and install equipment.

The UNHRD Field Team worked hand in hand with the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) and Logistics Cluster to: receive, consolidate and distribute cargo; assess storage capacity; carry out warehouse management; and load and dispatch items for helicopter operations.

The crew in Mozambique installed 17 MSUs across the country, creating 5,400 m² of storage capacity available to the humanitarian community. Before leaving Mozambique, the team ensured that local staff were well trained to install and maintain equipment.

In one day, we offloaded 450 MT of cargo from seven different planes, working from dusk till dawn. The airport was my home for three weeks following my arrival in Beira and I cannot count the number of hours I spent on the forklift. The guys there were hard workers, we managed to accomplish a lot. The air movements progressively reduced, I was exhausted, but we made it.

- Max Cosci, UNHRD Field Team leader


On 1 September, category 5 Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas causing devastation amongst Abaco and Grand Bahama Islands. Three members of the Field Team were immediately deployed to the Abaco Islands to install logistics equipment and contribute to WFP’s efforts in supporting the Government and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

Upon their arrival, eight MSUs and six prefab modules, delivered from UNHRD Panama, were rapidly installed by the team and other actors on the ground. They created a WFP Logistics Hub at Marsh Harbour Port and provided storage and office space for partners in other locations. Additionally, UNHRD Panama organized 13 deliveries by sea and air for seven partners with 81 MT of cargo.

When Erin, Francisco and I arrived in Marsh Harbour on the Abaco Islands, the storm had passed just a few days before. We immediately started installing the equipment and at some point, we had to rush as a tropical storm was arriving and we had to complete and secure the goods before then. I spent 22 days in the Abaco Islands, and as it often happens during an emergency response, you do your best to help each other out. That’s why our team also supported WFP colleagues in their logistics operations and services.

- Pino, Logistics Assistant

Photos: WFP/Elio Rujano


Global Partner Meeting

Forty-one participants from 33 organizations, representing UN agencies, governments and NGOs, gathered on 23 and 24 October for the UNHRD Global Partner Meeting 2019 hosted in Copenhagen, Denmark by our colleagues in UNICEF. This annual meetup offered once again an important opportunity to get together with partners to follow up on the action points from 2018, review stock rotation strategies, evaluate key performance indicators and overall to find solutions for stronger emergency preparedness and response.

The meeting included a mixture of operational discussions to identify ways to overcome challenges and increase coordination among partners, and how to effectively utilize the newly launched Partner Portal and internal dashboards. A focus session featured a presentation by the UNHRD Lab on new projects and developments with specific attention to green, cold chain solutions for field operations.

Global Partners Meeting Global Partners Meeting

Irish Aid’s Standby Partner in Accra

From June to December 2019, Conor Fyans, an engineer specializing in renewable energy, was seconded from the Irish Aid Rapid Response Corps to UNHRD Accra.

As well as working on infrastructure projects, such as roofing and drainage improvements, Conor conducted a business case study for the installation of a grid-tied solar power system to support the hub’s switch to renewable energy, further reducing running costs and carbon footprint. Ultimately, this approach aims to provide better independence from the national grid.

Between 2008 and 2019, Irish Aid has deployed six staff to UNHRD Accra to cover different roles, such as a Project Manager, Engineer, Fleet Manager and Logistics Officer.

Irish Aid’s Standby Partner in Accra

The UN Secretary-General’s Visit to Brindisi

On his first official visit to Italy since taking office, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, travelled to Brindisi for the 25th anniversary of the UN Global Service Centre.

Together with the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, H.E. Luigi Di Maio, Mr. Guterres took the opportunity to visit UNHRD’s original facilities at the Brindisi military airport. Welcomed by WFP Deputy Executive Director, Amir Abdulla, they commended WFP’s operations, services and tools for providing life-saving support to people around the world.

The UN Secretary-General’s Visit to Brindisi
Group of Friends of UNHRD

Since taking over the chairmanship of the Group of Friends of UNHRD from Italy in 2018, Spain has engaged in efforts to raise awareness on the added value of UNHRD within the global humanitarian landscape.

In October 2019, the Permanent Representative of Spain to the UN-agencies in Rome held, in collaboration with Italy, a brown bag lunch at the WFP Headquarters in Rome to illustrate UNHRD’s activities and discuss challenges and potential opportunities. The event was an opportunity to reflect, together with WFP member state delegates, on how to enhance the UNHRD network and its partners’ potential to deliver assistance more efficiently and effectively.

Capacity Strengthening

UNHRD Kuala Lumpur

UNHRD Kuala Lumpur has become a well-established centre for capacity building activities in Asia Pacific. In partnership with regional and local stakeholders, the hub hosts, organizes and facilitates different trainings and workshops aimed at building partners’ capacities in humanitarian supply chain.

On 19 – 23 August, UNHRD Kuala Lumpur hosted the third edition of the training on Pharma and Public Health Supply Chain Management in collaboration with and support of HELP Logistics, facilitating and moderating group discussions. The training aimed at introducing medical practitioners to the humanitarian medical supply chain. Forty participants from the Malaysian Ministry of Health, National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA), Health Division of the Ministry of Defence, hospitals and the private sector attended. Classroom and table top exercises included an introduction on the supply chain from demand planning to procurement, transport and warehousing.

UNHRD Kuala Lumpur

UNHRD Brindisi

In 2019, UNHRD Brindisi made progress as a centre of excellence for scenario-based humanitarian training and activities.

Working with the WFP Emergency Division, UNHRD Brindisi co-organized and hosted a new simulation exercise built upon the hub’s unique facilities, staff expertise and partnership with local authorities and partners. This was the first of a new set of WFP corporate trainings that will now be held in Brindisi.

UNHRD Brindisi

Field Trainings

UNHRD staff were deployed to Greece to teach IOM’s local staff on how to install MSUs; to Jordan to train WFP Country Office staff on procurement procedures; and to Nicaragua to take part in the first Regional Simulation for Humanitarian Assistance organized by SINAPRED, SICA and Cepredenac by installing prefab offices and ETC equipment.

In June, a UNHRD Field Team member led a response training in Barbados organized by CDEMA in partnership with WFP teaching participants how to assemble and disassemble a MSU. Myron, a participant of the training from Antigua and Barbuda, had the opportunity to quickly put in practice what he learned, as he was soon after deployed to the Bahamas to be embedded in the WFP Hurricane Dorian response team.

Training in Barbardos


Innovation is critical for UNHRD to provide new and green supply chain solutions to improve humanitarian operations and reduce their footprint. The UNHRD Lab has been working on a temperature-controlled solution to transport specialized food and medicines, maintaining the right temperature along the journey from the warehouse to the field. To complement these endeavours, the UNHRD Lab has also worked on efficient equipment to store temperature-sensitive items in field settings.

New cold chain storage solutions

Since 2018, the UNHRD Lab has focused on improvements to cold chain storage solutions for field operations with a specific focus on health responses. In 2019, after completing the test phase of an inflatable refrigerated tent, the UNHRD Lab worked with the supplier to reduce costs and transport size and optimize power efficiency. This resulted in a light-weight solution that can be transported with standard pick-up trucks to be set up within a few hours in the field without expert technicians.

In 2019, the UNHRD Lab also worked on new cold-chain equipment for field operations, such as an insulated reefer container with solar panels (‘Suntainer’), and a new semi-permanent storage kit, integrated with a solar power system, which has since been deployed to Uganda.

More information on the UNHRD Lab’s projects focused on repackaging and green technologies is available here and here.

UNHRD Partner Portal

A clear overview of activities with UNHRD is crucial for our partners. Officially launched in March 2019, the UNHRD Partner Portal facilitates the monitoring and analysis of stocks and operations.

The portal is an interactive tool, where partners can access their stock report and analytics and review past shipments with the possibility to filter by hub, organization, date or timeframe, destinations and other parameters.

The portal also works as a repository of information, such as hub and contact details, key documents (such as the standard operating procedures, the UNHRD procurement process, and the service price list), and publications including the Year in Review and factsheets.

Partner Portal

Behind the Scenes

Logistics, technology and innovation are crucial to our work but ultimately, it is about our people. How does a pharmacist or a data scientist contribute to UNHRD’s operations? And what does the work of a logistics assistant look like?


Time is of the essence in achieving efficient and successful emergency responses within the health supply chain. The biggest challenge of Nesrin’s job is to deliver medical supplies on time to remote locations, where infrastructure damage has occurred, or standard transport means are unavailable due to geographical or security issues.

As a medical caregiver, I have a passion to help people in need. Working in the humanitarian sector has fulfilled me and provides satisfaction each day through adding value to people who are most in need of help, either in the context of pandemic emergencies and natural or manmade disasters.

- Nesrin Elgayar


WaiYee has been with UNHRD for six years as a Logistics Assistant in Kuala Lumpur, managing partners’ demands for shipping, procurement and billing needs. She finds solutions when problems between sales or partners arise, for example due to stock or logistics issues. During the 2018 Sulawesi earthquake and tsunami emergency response in Palu, Indonesia, WaiYee was involved in chartered flight planning for partners’ consolidated cargo, based on offers from HQ Aviation. What she likes most about her job is solving problems and helping partners.

The emergency operation that I will never forget is the Philippines Typhoon Haiyan response back in November 2013. That was when I just joined UNHRD - a whole new experience where I learnt about relief items such as MSUs, family kits and was given the opportunity to access local airports to observe cargo loading into chartered aircraft.

- WaiYee Lee


For Fiifi, it has been over 10 years of in-depth supply chain operations management with UNHRD. Fiifi is not only the Logistics Officer but also the Deputy Manager and Head of Customer Service of UNHRD Accra. His daily work includes the management of warehouse operations, exports and imports, transport contracting, shortlisting transporters and conducting the end of year inventory report. He has supported many humanitarian operations including the Ebola response in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea and the emergency response in Haiti after the earthquake. Throughout his time with UNHRD Accra, he has been able to build great relationships with key partners and stakeholders, such as the customs office and freight forwarders in Ghana.

My greatest challenge is the delivery of emergency shipments that depend on factors beyond my control. I am always motivated when a customer comes back to say thank you as an expression of their satisfaction or when I see or hear that lives were saved because of an action that I was involved in.

- Fiifi Kakraba-Yenyi


For emergency operations to succeed, efficiency is crucial; this is where Federico’s role, as a Data Scientist in Rome HQ, comes into play. Using a mix of tools (including Foundry/Dots, MySQL database and Tableau) and programming languages (including Python and SQL), Federico merges and aggregates different datasets from WFP’s internal SAP system to create dynamic tools, dashboards and reports. Throughout 2019, specific outputs included a stock rotation analysis dashboard, an automated monthly report for partners to highlight expired/expiring items, and an improved stock report that updates every hour. Through his work, Federico is carrying forward the digitalization of UNHRD business processes and contributing to informed internal and external decision-making.

A real challenge of my job is to draw on multiple datasets and aggregate the information in such a way as to make it understandable and useful for UNHRD’s staff and external partners. What I enjoy most about my daily work is problem solving and working with different units to tailor the best solutions possible.

- Federico Pula


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