2020 in review


The novel coronavirus outbreak, which began in December of 2019, quickly expanded around the globe in early 2020 and, on 11 March, COVID-19 was declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a pandemic.

The biggest global crisis since World War II, the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly changed our operational environment and personal lives, pushing us beyond what anyone could have imagined. During this unprecedented emergency, UNHRD tripled its response efforts over the span of a year, supporting the global health and humanitarian response to COVID-19 and existing humanitarian responses around the world.

This report highlights the three operational streams UNHRD was engaged in throughout 2020. In addition to providing core services for sudden-onset emergencies and protracted and complex crises, UNHRD supported partners in their response efforts amidst the pandemic and contributed to WFP’s comprehensive platform of free-to-user cargo transport services established for the COVID-19 global response.

This platform for the humanitarian community was built on the existing UNHRD Network, where each hub was already a crucial element of the response effort in respective regions and with Brindisi serving as a global support. UNHRD hubs also provided supplementary support including procurement, transport, handling, customs clearance, and customer service were also used as delivery routes to move crucial items to the final countries of destination.

Behind these efforts, there is a unique team of dedicated staff who once again confirmed their commitment to serve the humanitarian community and adapt to new demands. The entire UNHRD team went above and beyond the call of duty to better support partners as new and challenging needs arose during the past year, and five of them share their stories about how COVID-19 has impacted their lives in the body of this Year in Review.

While 2020 was dominated by COVID-19, it also marked important occasions. On June 20, 2000 an Ilyushin 76 took off from Brindisi with 36 mt of emergency aid and a mobile hospital destined for Asmara on behalf of the Italian Cooperation, to assist Eritreans caught in the border war with Ethiopia.

That was the very first humanitarian flight managed by UNHRD which had become fully operational at the beginning of that month. Twenty years later, as travel and physical distancing restrictions made it impossible to hold official celebrations, we shared through our digital channels the stories of the pioneering staff and celebrated the forward-looking idea behind the establishment of UNHRD and its growth into a crucial resource for the humanitarian community.

As part of WFP Supply Chain, UNHRD was also honored to celebrate the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to our organization for its efforts to combat hunger, its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war.

What we are now, and what we have achieved over the past 20 years would not have been possible without the generous engagement of our donors. That vision turned into a global model for emergency preparedness and response, a model which was further replicated by WFP to support the global COVID-19 response. UNHRD has never lived on past glories and has continuously grown from and adapted to changing operational environments. Now more than ever, as the world has irreversibly changed, we are committed to continue strengthening our mechanism, augmenting its agility and flexibility, and establishing new partnerships to develop innovative, sustainable solutions to respond to emergencies. The support of our donors remains essential in this venture, and we are thankful that we can continue to count on these important relationships.

UNHRD Shipments in 2020

UNHRD 2020 Numbers

135.7 million

72.3 million



56.5 million




COVID-19 Pandemic

Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe

The COVID-19 outbreak, which began in December 2019, rapidly spread around the world, leading to widespread movement restrictions as governments scrambled to protect their citizens and disrupting supply chains, impacting both existing humanitarian operations and the global response to the pandemic.

In order to support the health and humanitarian response, WFP stepped up to offer its logistics expertise and infrastructure to establish a comprehensive platform of services to move cargo around the globe. Through the Global Humanitarian Response Plan, WFP provided these transport services at no cost to the humanitarian community.

UNHRD was the foundation of this platform of services. WFP built on this existing network, scaling up the already crucial support UNHRD was playing in the early stages of the response, and augmented its capacity by establishing global humanitarian hubs in an additional three strategic locations in Guangzhou, China, Johannesburg in South Africa and Liege, Belgium.

UNHRD hubs were used to move crucial items to the final country of destination, and provided additional support to WFP’s response including procurement, transport, handling, customs clearance, and customer service.

Countries and Overseas Territories Reached


Countries and Overseas Territories Reached


Partners Served


Weight Dispatched

14,504 MT

Volume Dispatched

24,079 m3

Value Dispatched


These include consignments managed by UNHRD to support partners’ response to COVID-19 pandemic and as part of WFP’s Global Humanitarian Response Plan.



On 4 August 2020, a massive explosion at the Port of Beirut, Lebanon devastated part of the city causing over 200 deaths, 6,500 injuries and leaving an estimated 300,000 people homeless.

Within 24 hours, upon request of the Italian Cooperation, the team at UNHRD Brindisi prepared 8.5 mt of emergency health supplies and trauma and surgical kits for urgent dispatch to Beirut, with items arriving within 48 hours of the blast.

In the following three days, the Brindisi hub managed three air rotations to deliver 18 mobile storage units (MSU) along with generators and support tools as part of WFP’s logistics support to the Government of Lebanon.

In the three months following the explosion, the Network managed a total of 13 shipments to Lebanon on behalf of six partners, delivering a total of 113 mt of relief items for the Italian Cooperation, the Australian Government , Cascos Blancos and the World Health Organization, as well as tools and equipment for the United Nations Development Programme.

Beirut Port

The UNHRD Field Team was deployed on the ground within days. They worked together with the WFP Lebanon office to identify appropriate space for the installation of support equipment, including the provision of technical support for the layout and workplans. In three weeks, the team, with local support, managed to install 12 mobile storage units that served to hold in-transit cargo, mitigating port congestion.

Weight Dispatched

101 MT

Volume Dispatched

461.1 m3

Value Dispatched


Types of Cargo (% of total weight dispatched)


Hub Highlights


On behalf of WFP and in conjunction with the Logistics Cluster, UNHRD Dubai procured various specialized port equipment to be used in Yemen in support of the humanitarian response in-country. This equipment has helped to streamline processes to ensure the smoother dispatch of humanitarian cargo through Yemen ports.


Weight Dispatched

330.3 MT

Volume Dispatched

1,102 m3

Value Dispatched


Types of Cargo (% of total weight dispatched)


On 22 November, Somalia was hit by Cyclone Gati, the first severe weather event of enough force to be classified as a cyclone on record to hit the country. Heavy rains and strong winds triggered flash floods along coastal and inland areas, primarily in Bari region, Puntland state.

Responding to this emergency, UNHRD Brindisi delivered 14 mt of relief items on behalf of the Italian Cooperation including cholera and malnutrition kits, blankets, family tents, squatting plates, and a water purification unit.

UNHRD Brindisi


Throughout the month of November, Hurricanes Eta and Iota caused a path of destruction through parts of Central and North America and the Caribbean, causing widespread damage throughout the region, particularly impacting Nicaragua and Honduras.

The Panama hub supported UNICEF, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), Cascos Blancos, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and WFP, sending support equipment and much needed emergency supplies, including soap, blankets, jerry cans and tarpaulins as well as COVID-19 kits.

UNHRD Panama


Following up on its earlier efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and electricity consumption, in 2020 the Accra hub completed the installation of 40 kVA solar panels, supplementing the existing 24 kVA panels, and also upgraded its lighting systems and cold room equipment. These efforts, led to a reduction in the hub’s carbon footprint, dropping to 21,000kg from January to October 2020, compared to 78,200 kg for the same period in 2019.


Kuala Lumpur

UNHRD Kuala Lumpur provided crucial support to partners’ responses to COVID-19 and other humanitarian efforts. In particular, throughout the year, the hub managed the delivery of over 40 million pairs of gloves for WHO. In addition, the Kuala Lumpur team also managed supply chain services, from procurement, storage and distribution, of 5,000 dignity kits on behalf of UNFPA that were distributed by IOM and UNHCR to migrants in Malaysia.

Confirming its position as a well-established centre for capacity building activities in the Asia Pacific region, in 2020 UNHRD Kuala Lumpur successfully adapted its training expertise to the changing operational environment caused by COVID-19. The hub implemented the following trainings:

A four-day online “Introduction to Humanitarian Supply Chain Management” training attended by 100 participants from local and international NGOs and governmental agencies, conducted by UNHRD Kuala Lumpur in partnership with MERCY Malaysia and HELP Logistics Singapore.

A three-week online “Medical Supply Chains in the Pandemic” training attended by 19 participants, organized by UNHRD Kuala Lumpur and facilitated by HELP Logistics Singapore.

A half-day “Inter-Governmental Humanitarian Logistics Coordination During Emergency” diploma training attended by 22 participants from the Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations.

UNHRD Kuala Lumpur

UNHRD 20th Anniversary

In June 2020, UNHRD celebrated the 20th anniversary of its establishment in Brindisi, Italy. The first hub became fully operational on 20 June 2000 with the very first air operation transporting emergency aid and a mobile hospital on behalf of the Italian Cooperation to Eritrea to assist the population caught in the border war with Ethiopia.

Through the voices of the pioneering staff working with UNHRD since day 1, we reflected on Italy and WFP’s forward-looking idea that turned into a global support network for the humanitarian community.

How One Forward Looking Idea Turned Global Support Network Humanitarians



“Italy is very proud to host the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) in Brindisi and to be supporting the whole UNHRD network as the main donor country. In the current global scenario, characterized by sudden and unpredictable man-made and natural disasters, humanitarian needs on the rise, as well as growing obstacles in the delivery of aid, the UNHRD network represents, more than ever, a key tool in the hands of the humanitarian international community to respond rapidly and efficiently to emergencies.

In 2020 we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the UNHRD project, a long and exciting journey since the establishment of the first UNHRD hub in Brindisi. Since then, UNHRD has constantly expanded, counting today more than 90 partners. The UNHRD hub in Brindisi plays nowadays a vital role in international humanitarian logistics, with over 130 shipments carried out in 2020. Thanks to UNHRD Brindisi services, the Italian Cooperation is able to swiftly deliver relief and health items in all areas in the world. Unfortunately, demanding challenges, such as health crises, conflicts and natural disasters continue to affect the humanitarian landscape. In this context, as part of Italy’s broader engagement to strengthen its long-standing partnership with the United Nations system, the Italian Cooperation is committed to further supporting UNHRD Brindisi and the whole network and to enhance its global preparedness and response capacity.”

Sereni, Viceminister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy



“Malaysia is proud to host one of the six global WFP-UNHRD hubs and to play an important role in undertaking its responsibilities towards the international community in facilitating and providing humanitarian and disaster relief assistance to countries in need. We are ready to provide full cooperation to the UN to ensure the smooth execution of its humanitarian efforts in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.”

YB Dato' Sri Hishammuddin bin Hussein, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia



The geographical location and climatic conditions of Panama places us as one of the countries with the best connections in the American continent, since it allows us to bridge the North with the South. Thus, Panama is the point where the main world traffic routes cross, positioning ourselves as one of the most important logistics centers in the Western Hemisphere for stockpiling and distributing cargo at the global level. We consider the establishment in Panama of the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD), one of the main international partners of the Regional Logistics Centre for Humanitarian Assistance (CLRAH), as a great advance in the country's development and well-being for the American region. In fact, from this hub multiple operations are carried out to respond to emergencies, such as in the delivery of tons of items to minimize the damage cause by COVID-19.

We have the privilege of hosting one of the six hub strategically located around the world in order to respond to emergencies in less than five hours, exemplified by the response to the COVID-19 pandemic where more than 818 metric tons of supplies have been moved to various parts of the region, including tents, prefabricated offices, vehicles, water purifiers and medicine.

Panama believes that investing in humanitarian action is a wise choice that offers us tangible and measurable results and has a proven track record of success. By supporting humanitarian response plans, we ensure that our resources are channeled to the right actors with the presence and capacity to help people in need.

Working together as a team is vital also since it is very difficult to predict where the next crisis will arise.

The benefits accrued by Panama and the region due to the presence of the UN Humanitarian Response Depot Network, in particular for the CLRAH, have been incalculable, for which we reiterate the intention of the Panamanian State to continue collaborating with WFP-UNHRD.

UNHRD Panama


The UNHRD Network is one of the pillars of the humanitarian response coordination around the world. From its creation 20 years ago to the current Covid-19 crisis, the UNHRD Network has proven to be an increasingly efficient logistics leader in any emergency. Throughout these 20 years, Spain has been a solid partner of WFP. Among other contributions, Spain hosts the WFP’s logistic base in Las Palmas and supports UNHRD through contributions to the humanitarian platform in Panama and through the chairmanship of the Group of Friends of the UNHRD Network.

There are still many challenges along the way. We know we can improve coordination in the Humanitarian Response by ensuring greater predictability, accountability and partnership. This is the spirit of the Agenda 2030. It requires innovation and the establishment of transformative partnerships, including with the private sector and universities, that may strengthen the UNHRD Network’s capacity to fulfill its goals and, ultimately, to improve the impact of the humanitarian assistance on the beneficiaries.

The Group of Friends has become a useful supporter of the Network by providing space for dialogue and raising awareness about the important role of the UNHRD. We will continue closely cooperating with the UNHRD in this endeavor.

Alfonso Dastis, Ambassador of Spain to Italy and Permanent Representative to FAO and WFP



The International Humanitarian City (IHC) in Dubai hosts the largest HRD since UNHRD Network's inception in 2005. In the past 15 years, we witnessed UNHRD Network's growth in terms of partners hosted in Dubai with the support of IHC and the expansion of the facilities. The UNHRD network and the whole humanitarian community present in Dubai, in IHC, currently compose the largest Humanitarian Hub in the world.

In a recent meeting held last December 2020, WFP Executive Director David Beasley confirmed in his statement the cooperation between IHC and WFP, especially in emergency preparedness and response to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Ruler of Dubai. UNHRD and IHC have grown substantially together. We are proud not for simply hosting UNHRD, but also to have established a strong partnership that allowed the development of relevant projects such as the Humanitarian Logistics Databank which go beyond the “technical agreement”. 

From my position as CEO of IHC, I'm very proud of our partnership with UNHRD. I'm also very proud as former UNHRD to celebrate the 20th anniversary of UNHRD and  my wish is to see the humanitarian community reinforcing more and more the approach of “Working all together and delivering as One”, as this is the expectation in the future from my perspective as “donor” of UNHRD.

Giuseppe Saba, CEO of the International Humanitarian City



Irish Aid has a long-standing partnership with UNHRD and sees it as a vital partner that enables us to deliver on our policy of reducing humanitarian need. UNHRD offers a one-stop-shop for procuring, storing and delivering essential humanitarian supplies into some of the most fragile contexts. Irish Aid appreciates the excellent cooperation and assistance by UNHRD in facilitating five stock deployments on our behalf in 2020 to Serbia, DRC, Nigeria, Sudan and Ethiopia.



Being convinced of the value of shared and common logistics services as a trigger for quick and efficient humanitarian action, SDC has been a committed supporter of UNHRD over the years and is eager to help further develop the system for the benefit of all partners who, in their diversity, represent the heart of the network. UNHRD’s services, along with its worldwide presence and the staff’s professional commitment, are also a valuable asset for SDC’s own emergency preparedness setup. In particular the loan/borrowing mechanism is a strong added value of the network and has even further potential for enhancement in the coming years. Congratulations to UNHRD for the great achievements over the past 20 years.

AHA Centre

AHA Centre

“It has been a privilege to work with UNHRD since 2012 when the AHA Centre was just a few months old. We have gone through thick and thin together, managing the regional stockpile of ASEAN relief items located in UNHRD Subang and mobilising relief items to affected countries in times of disasters. Our partnership has grown into working together in enhancing humanitarian logistics capacity in the ASEAN region.

UNHRD has also been providing valuable technical support to the AHA Centre as we have been expanding the Disaster Emergency Logistics System for ASEAN (DELSA) that covers not only the regional stockpile in UNHRD Kuala Lumpur, but also DELSA satellite warehouses in the Philippines and Thailand. Because of the partnership and trust built over the years, we have been able to swiftly respond to disasters during difficult times such as pandemic and provide support for the COVID-19 response in ASEAN countries”.

Ms. Adelina Kamal, Executive Director of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre)

Save the Children

Save the Children

Save the Children has been a partner of the UNHRD for many years now and has benefitted in the ability to use the loan and borrow scheme, both as a lender and borrower of stock. We have also benefited over the years in the opportunities to consolidate freight for large scale emergencies, be supported by the loading and clearance of these UN flights and the ability to hold emergency stock in the UNHRD facilities which over the years has been of financial benefit vs the costs of using commercial facilities.

In addition the work of the innovation centre is of interest in an ever changing climate, and how as a sector we can work together to better serve people with improved design solutions for emergency items, and more recently the need to ensure that we are not creating environmental harm to countries already in crisis.

Sue Hodgson, Head of Humanitarian Supply Chain, Save the Children International

Solidarites International

Solidarites International

I first met UNHRD in 2015. It has been a great way to interact with fellow colleagues involved in emergency preparedness, a real added value when sudden onset strikes. Network is always key.

In addition to this networking ability, UNHRD network enables middle size NGO to access proper international storage, at no cost to strengthen their ability to be first line responder as any other agency, even if capacity to invest are not has important as for bigger agencies. Finally, UNHRD is a great tool in protracted crisis response, as it ensures directly available stocks, from UNHRD partners, to allow faster international procurement through both loan & borrow and “white stock” from suppliers, stockpiled at UNHRD. Happy 20th belated anniversary to UNHRD, hoping to have soon the occasion to wish it to all UNHRD team in person.

Marie Houel, Head of Supply Department, Solidarités International

World Vision

World Vision International

We live in a world where disasters and humanitarian emergencies are growing each year. When a disaster strikes, World Vision International is committed to protecting the vulnerable and providing immediate support. We aim for rapid and coordinated response in order to deliver essential services to the affected population.

Partnering with the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot has played an essential and vital role in strengthening our capacity to respond faster and more efficiently to emergencies.

During crises, the pre-position and stockpile of relief items allowed immediate dispatch of items to World Vision field offices even in some of the world’s most hostile environments. UNHRD has established solid supply chain solutions which facilitated the management of our stock and generated comprehensive and transparent reports.

UNHRD not only opt to provide technical expertise but also promoted inter-agency cooperation which served and is still serving a wide range of ongoing benefits and collaborations. UNHRD represent a major contribution toward the effective and rapid delivery of humanitarian aid to those we serve.

Micheline Ekmekjian, Emergency Logistics Advisor, World Vision International


At this moment in time, there are almost 13,000 family tents stocked in UNHRD warehouses across the Network. They are one of the most common relief items used by UNHRD partners to assist populations in conflict, refugees and post-disaster crises.

With babies and newborns among the most vulnerable in these crises, and with limited relief items specifically designed for their wellbeing, the UNHRD Lab, with its suppliers, developed the “Cradle Tent” which, once the geodesic tent is taken and installed, allows for the wooden crate to be modified into a crib with rockers, a baby mattress and sheets. This newly developed relief item also includes a blanket, a pillow with accompanying cover, a changing mat and a mosquito net. There are also complementary pieces such as a teddy bear, produced with excess materials from the production of blankets, a blackboard on the internal side of the crate’s lid, with white chalk and an eraser, and a picture book.

“Cradle Tent” is a great example of UNHRD Lab’s cross-sectoral efforts in waste reduction, and using repackaging to create a circular economy.

The item is now available to UNHRD partners for procurement and stockpiling.

Staff in the Time of COVID

UNHRD staff across the Network reflect on their work and personal lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alessia, Brindisi

Alessia is part of the UNHRD Customer Service team and is based in Brindisi, Italy. She has been with UNHRD for five years and during the past year has been part of the UNHRD COVID-19 cell, an ad hoc customer service desk created to provide frontline support to partners needing to procure personal protective equipment.

2020 was the most challenging period since I joined UNHRD. While we were working hard to support the humanitarian community during the pandemic, we were ourselves in the midst of the same emergency. From one moment to the next we began working from home, and the workload increased hugely. It took some time to adapt and adjust to the new work dynamic, including balancing a professional and private life now both happening in the same place, my home. I did find this new balance, adapting to remote work and appreciating its advantages, and then I found out that the most beautiful experience of my life had just started and that a new little life was growing within my body, and Giuseppe then became my precious Christmas gift.

- Alessia Borreggine

Francisco, Panama

Francisco has been a Logistics Officer for UNHRD Panama for more than nine years. A national of Panama, in addition to his daily work as Head of Logistics/Operations of the hub, he often deploys at the onset of large-scale emergencies as part of the UNHRD Field Team.

COVID-19 prompted us to reinvent ourselves. We were in the middle of moving and operating from our new hub facilities in Panama when the pandemic struck. Because of increasing needs, we continued to also run the old hangar and dedicated it to receiving stock for the COVID-19 response. In the meanwhile, we handled meetings, airport operations, cargo preparation and dispatches, in addition to establishing new cargo handling and monitoring systems. It was a challenge, but with the support of the team we managed it. There is nothing more rewarding than knowing that you gave 100 percent plus a couple of cents for an operation.

- Francisco Garrido

Ruth, Accra

Ruth, a Ghanaian national, joined the UNHRD family in Accra in 2016 and currently serves as a Logistics Associate, working closely with UNHRD partners.

Working from home and trying to balance work and family life was difficult until I eventually embraced it as the new normal. I saw each day come with the hope of the pandemic ending as nations and families struggled to keep loved ones alive. My team and I had to also play our part in making sure that PPEs and other supplies moved quickly to areas where they were needed most and meeting this end is what has kept me going.

- Ruth Otoo

Sai, Kuala Lumpur

Sai has been with the UNHRD Kuala Lumpur hub since its inauguration in 2010. As a Logistics Officer, over the years he has worked closely with partners to support their relief efforts across numerous countries and has also served as a trainer for the hub’s capacity building programmes.

In the past I have supported and coordinated emergency shipments to various big crises, like Japan in 2011, Philippines in 2013, Nepal in 2015 and the current response in Bangladesh, but 2020 was an extremely challenging year. This was the one with the highest dispatch volume for the Kuala Lumpur hub, as we also contributed to the WFP Global Common Services, which had our teams working tirelessly to ensure rapid dispatches. Quick decisionmaking and prompt follow-ups were key. Working from home with limited breaks, I often worked late into the night coordinating dispatches and establishing transport contracts, ensuring cargo was booked on the earliest available flights to fulfil partner needs and requirements. For three months I was Officer in Charge, my role when the hub manager is away, adding new responsibilities during this trying period. I contributed to finalizing and establishing the contracting for the new China hub, which was done efficiently in a remarkably short time. That was an achievement I’m proud to have been a part of!

- Sai Shangker Nair

Vivek, Dubai

Vivek began his career with WFP UAE Office in 2004 and joined UNHRD in 2007, upon the establishment of the Dubai hub. Since then, he’s played a part in almost all emergency operations, from the Indian Ocean Tsunami all the way to the ongoing COVID-19 response.

Every part of the process is vital to the running of a hub, and I’ve always enjoyed working on implementing systems at the Dubai hub such as barcoding, which help ensure accurate inventory and in turn support decisionmaking and timely planning of operations in humanitarian emergencies. During this pandemic crisis, continuing to run a successful operation, ensuring the safety of colleagues and high-risk families, and having myself battled COVID-19 were the challenges that were met. We’ve strictly implemented COVID-19 prevention protocols including running operations with minimum staff on rotation, physical distancing, restricting access to the warehouses and regularly sanitizing facilities. In this way, we’ve ensured continuity and adaptation to the new normal.

- Vivek Parameswaran

Desiree, Las Palmas

Desiree, a Finance Assistant in Las Palmas, has been a part of the UNHRD family for seven years.

The Las Palmas hub is located within the port area, so there were no restrictions to the operations during the lockdown period as port operations were considered essential. The adaptation to the prevention measures was easy as our suppliers were well aware of the risks of an outbreak and there was close cooperation to avoid contagion and, fortunately, we have not suffered any cases of COVID-19 among WFP staff or the employees of our contractors. From my personal point of view, similar to many other WFP colleagues I have been in contact with, it was not easy to deal with lockdown living alone but the hardest part was not to be able to see my family for six months. Also, it was sad not to be able to be close to the friends that lost relatives as the restrictions banned wakes and funerals.

- Desiree Rodriguez


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