2018 in review

With new crises occurring and protracted crises increasing, 2018 was another challenging year for the humanitarian community. Unfortunately, this trend has become somewhat of a default setting over the past few years and we as humanitarians have had to adjust our own ways of working to ensure aid is delivered and national capacities to cope are strengthened.


In June UNHRD celebrated the 18th anniversary of its founding, marking the establishment of the first hub in Brindisi in 2000. In many countries around the world, turning 18 signifies a transition into adulthood; now more than ever we, as a Network, must hold ourselves accountable as a critical tool for emergency preparedness and response, and work even harder for our humanitarian partners so they can rely on us to meet more demanding challenges in ever more complex environments.

This Year in Review provides an overview that demonstrates the support UNHRD provided to its partners responding to crises all over the world. The figures in this report were collated using newly developed automated reporting tools, which will soon be available to partners as part of our efforts to expand our digital services (we look forward to giving our partners more control of their stocks, analytics and activity reports in 2019 through a newly revamped website and online partner portal).

What cannot be so directly quantified is the work going on behind the scenes that makes every operation possible. From the suppliers to the final destinations, UNHRD performs a number of important back-office functions to deliver relief items and logistics equipment to those in the field. Therefore, we are dedicating part of this report to recognize the work of staff who provide fundamental support in procurement, finance, human resources and admin to keep the UNHRD mechanism running smoothly and efficiently.

These staff are crucial when deploying the UNHRD Rapid Response Team and other staff on temporary field assignments to provide technical support to our colleagues in the field.

Throughout 2018, UNHRD staff were deployed to 15 countries; this report will highlight the experiences of colleagues who worked in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Chad and Uganda, as well as capacity building activities in Kuala Lumpur. Additionally, UNHRD organized, participated in or hosted a number of trainings and simulations to build the logistics and response capacities of its partners.

As we try to keep up with new challenges and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals, UNHRD continues to develop its own innovation LAB. Hosted in the Brindisi hub, the LAB is a research and development unit that engages in efforts to improve logistics support equipment and packaging solutions. Partnering with humanitarian organizations, academia, private sector actors and other stakeholders, the LAB is committed to help the humanitarian community find new ways to reduce the environmental impact of operations, including by integrating green technologies, reducing waste, and reusing and upcycling packaging materials.

Once again, we would like to sincerely thank our donors for their generous support, and our partners and colleagues for their great teamwork. Your efforts and collaboration are what allow UNHRD to assist our 88 humanitarian partners provide lifesaving support to those in need.

UNHRD Shipments in 2018

UNHRD 2018 numbers





44.8 M






In 2018, the Yemen crisis hit the headlines as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Since March 2015, the conflict has exacerbated the already precarious situation in Yemen – the poorest country in the Arab world.

Against this backdrop, Yemen also faced the worst cholera outbreak of 2017 with more than one million suspected cases reported by the end of December and a new acceleration in September 2018. UNHRD has supported partner organizations in their logistics and relief efforts especially by dispatching prefabricated mobile tents to increase the warehousing capacity for the humanitarian community operating in the country.

Deliveries Dispatched


Partners Served


Types of Cargo (% of total weight dispatched)

Transport type

Weight Dispatched

167.6 MT

Volume Dispatched

609.4 m3

Value Dispatched

Care International IOM WFP WHO



Described as the fastest growing and one of the largest refugee crisis in the world, the Rohingya emergency in Bangladesh entered its second year in August 2018.

More than 900,000 refugees live in the area of Cox’s Bazaar, with Kutupalong-Balukhali camp as the largest and most densely populated refugee camp in the world. The vast majority of them rely on humanitarian assistance to survive. Throughout the year, one of the main challenges has been the safety of the camps during the Monsoon season. Out of 449 tons of equipment and aid delivered by UNHRD to Bangladesh, 53.65 % or 241 tons consisted of emergency shelter items.

Deliveries Dispatched


Partners Served


Types of Cargo (% of total weight dispatched)

Transport type

Weight Dispatched

448.9 MT

Volume Dispatched

1,984 m3

Value Dispatched

Good Neighbours International International Rescue Comitee IOM Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation UNFPA WFP WHO

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Democratic Republic of Congo

With 13.1 million people in dire need of assistance, the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues to experience a complex and long-standing humanitarian crisis.

The situation has further deteriorated with an outbreak of ebola in North Kivu, officially declared in August 2018. With the virus found in an area with violent conflict and a record numbers of refugees and internally displaced people. UNHRD has supported aid organizations operating in such exceptionally complex and challenging environments to prevent and control the spread of the disease.

Deliveries Dispatched


Partners Served


Types of Cargo (% of total weight dispatched)

Transport type

Weight Dispatched

454.2 MT

Volume Dispatched

3,089 m3

Value Dispatched

Cooperazione Italiana FAO UNHCR WFP WHO



On 28 September a number of strong earthquakes hit Central Sulawesi in Indonesia with a 7.4 magnitude shock triggering a tsunami that struck Palu City.

The response was led by the Government of Indonesia, through the National Disaster Management Authority (BNPB), in collaboration with the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre). In support of this response, UNHRD assisted partners delivering much needed emergency shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) items and logistics equipment to the affected areas.

Deliveries Dispatched


Partners Served


Types of Cargo (% of total weight dispatched)

Transport type

Weight Dispatched

160.2 MT

Volume Dispatched

623.2 m3

Value Dispatched

AHA Centre Italian Cooperation Shelter Box Save the Children WFP


Ethiopia is home to the second largest refugee population on the continent, hosting more than 900,000 refugees from South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and Kenya. Unrest in parts of the country has also led to a surge in the number of internally displaced people.

Irish Aid supported Trocaire’s efforts in the country by delivering 10,000 blankets, 6,000 jerry cans, 6,000 mosquito nets, 2,800 tarpaulins and 2,000 hygiene kits together with family tents, water tanks and shelter toolkits totalling 119 MT.


The partnership between Irish Aid and UNHRD started in 2006 and has grown exponentially since then. Not only is Irish Aid a partner, but also a key donor. The generous and consistent contributions, both financial and in-kind, have been a crucial factor in the success of UNHRD operations.


The humanitarian crisis in Niger arises from vulnerabilities common to the Sahel region related to malnutrition, food insecurity and climate shocks. Conflicts in neighboring countries and epidemics, both internal and external, aggravate the situation.

The Italian Cooperation established an air bridge to Niger with 7 deliveries between April and December to support the health system in the country. A total of 60 metric tons of medicines, health devices and water purification units were airlifted to contribute to the Government’s response to a broad health emergency complicated by meningitis and cholera outbreaks. Combined with deliveries for WHO, medical kits and devices make up 35,5 % of the 259 MT of cargo delivered to Niger, while emergency shelter items represent 47.6%.

Government of Italy

The establishment of UNHRD owes much to a vision of the Government of Italy. Since its inception in 2000, Italy has been providing the premises for the Brindisi hub and the Italian Cooperation system has been funding its running costs as well as relying on it as a partner for stock prepositioning and emergency operations.

Papua New Guinea

A devastating 7.5 magnitude earthquake followed by a series of severe aftershocks caused widespread damages in Papua New Guinea, leaving many villages isolated and more than 270,000 people in need of humanitarian assistance.

UNHRD airlifted 80 tons of high-energy biscuits for WFP to assist 60,000 people affected by the earthquake and three prefabricated storage units to set up a staging area. The airlift was facilitated by the International Humanitarian City (IHC) through a plane provided by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.


The IHC kindly hosts the Dubai hub, but UNHRD also works closely with IHC on an operational level and has been the recipient of in-kind contributions in the form of airlifts. Such airlifts have been made available at a moment’s notice and have afforded UNHRD the possibility to offer partners free of cost transport options for emergency operations.


Uganda hosts more refugees than any other country in Africa, including people who have fled from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. In addition to supporting over one million refugees as well as Ugandans affected by recurring climate shocks with food assistance, WFP provides other humanitarian agencies with supply chain services and expertise to support their operations in country and in the region.

In March, a B747 carried 30 prefabricated storage tents, 30 generators and five scales to Entebbe for WFP’s refugee response. Out of a total 516.2 MT of cargo shipped to Uganda through 30 deliveries for WFP, WHO and FAO, 87.8 % were logistics equipment.


As a low-income country and one of the most densely populated in Africa, Rwanda registers high percentages of population living below the poverty line (45 %), undernourishment (41%) and food insecurity (20 %). The current outbreak of Ebola in DRC poses a high risk of introduction into neighboring countries including Rwanda which currently hosts 175,000 Congolese and Burundian refugees.

With the support of UPS Foundation, 500 boxes of high-energy biscuits, five prefabricated storage units and two office modules were delivered to Kigali for WFP’s operations. Throughout 2018, 13 shipments were delivered to Rwanda including medical kits and devices for WHO and laboratory kits for FAO.

Uganda Rwanda

Rapid Response Team

Nine team members were on mission for a combined total of 395 days to five countries.

Field Support

19 UNHRD staff members were deployed for a combined total of 1,351 days: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Uganda and Yemen.

Benin Chad

Alex and Daniel spent five days in Benin to disassemble a damaged Mobile Storage Unit (MSU), fix the platform and install a new structure.

Alex spent 83 days on mission in Chad and visited 24 sites across the country to inspect 122 mobile storage units and provide feedback on their maintenance.

Rehabilitation Uganda

On multiple missions, Kingsley and Max spent a total of 66 days in the Democratic Republic of the Congo providing support on camps set-up, warehouse restoration and road rehabilitation.

Vincenzo and Giuseppe were two out of five UNHRD RRT members that travelled to Uganda. They spent 30 days in the country supervising the installation of 30 mobile storage units and training local labourers.


Global Partner Meeting

Thirty-seven participants from 25 organizations gathered in Rome on 8 November for the 2018 UNHRD Global Partner Meeting (GPM), representing UN agencies, governmental and non-governmental organizations. This was an important opportunity to engage in an open and constructive discussion with partners, in particular to follow up on the action points from the 2017 GPM, review customer satisfaction and explain changes made on the Standard Operating Procedures. Specific emphasis was put on the newly-implemented digital platform which will allow partners to monitor their stocks and operations.

Partners had previously gathered in Kuala Lumpur on 25 and 26 April for the Regional Partner Meeting. This included a mixture of operational discussions, presentations, working groups and a panel to identify ways to overcome barriers to coordination between partners; identify product candidates for standardization; and a panel to discuss the future of relief items pre-positioning.

Global Partners Meeting Global Partners Meeting

Group of Friends of UNHRD

In a ceremony on 18 June at the annual session of the Executive Board of the World Food Programme, the Italian Government handed over the chairmanship of the ‘Group of Friends of UNHRD’ to the Spanish Government. Also promoted by the Government of Panama, the event was the opportunity to celebrate the 18th anniversary of UNHRD, which was first established in Brindisi, Italy in June 2000.

Launched in 2015 by the Italian Government, the Group of Friends of UNHRD brings together donors, partners and other actors who aim to raise awareness on the role of UNHRD in the global humanitarian architecture and who recognize the need to invest in emergency preparedness and response to ensure a sustainable UNHRD Network. Taking over the chairmanship, Ambassador Jesús Manuel García Aldaz, Permanent Representative of Spain to the UN in Rome, emphasized that “the spirit of the Agenda 2030 requires innovation and the establishment of transformative partnerships, including with the private sector and universities.”

Group of Friends of UNHRD
Ambassador Pierfrancesco Sacco, Permanent Representative of Italy to the UN in Rome
Group of Friends of UNHRD
Ambassador Jesús Manuel Gracía Aldaz, Permanent Representative of Spain to the UN in Rome

The partnership between UNHRD and Spain has been longstanding. The Spanish Government generously committed support to WFP to enhance its emergency preparedness and response capabilities in Las Palmas and kindly supports the position of Hub Manager in the UNHRD Panama hub.

New home for UNHRD Panama

On 19 November, Panama’s new Regional Logistics Center for Humanitarian Assistance was officially inaugurated by President Juan Carlos Varela. Consisting of three warehouses for a total storage capacity of 12,000 square metres and cold rooms, the Humanitarian Hub is the new home to UNHRD, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the National Civil Protection System (SINAPROC).

"I saw the blueprints for this project, seeing those turn into reality and being part of this is exciting", UNHRD Network Coordinator Bekim Mahmuti recalled at the inauguration of humanitarian hub. “It has now been 12 years since UNHRD first opened its hub in Panama. Since that time we have responded to emergencies across the Latin American region. This year alone, we have had shipments go to Perú, Ecuador, Cuba, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Guatemala and Venezuela, where we are supporting the ongoing operations. This has only been made possible thanks to Panama”, Mahmuti emphasized.

Panama has hosted a UNHRD hub since 2007 and became a UNHRD partner in 2016. This is yet another great example of a collaboration that goes far beyond the traditional donor/recipient relationship and has already resulted in great steps forward for the Network.

UNHRD welcomed three new Partners in 2018



Working on challenges identified in the field by humanitarian organizations, the UNHRD LAB collaborates with universities and suppliers to research and develop innovative solutions for the supply chain in emergency response. Improving logistics support equipment, reducing waste from relief items and implementing new and green technologies are the main innovation efforts of the UNHRD LAB to address these challenges.


Helping humanitarian organizations reduce the environmental impact of their operations is one of the primary focus areas of research for the UNHRD LAB. These efforts help integrating the environment into emergency response, contributing to filling the gap between humanitarian intervention and sustainable development, in line with the holistic approach of the Agenda 2030.


The prefabricated storage tent, commonly known as mobile storage unit (MSU), is a multipurpose fundamental piece of emergency logistics equipment. Given its wide use, the UNHRD LAB has engaged in researching and developing solutions to further improve its efficiency and sustainability, including by integrating solar, wind and hybrid power solutions.


Sometimes, new solutions are already available on the market but may not be specifically developed for humanitarian purposes. This is the case, for example, of inflatable refrigerated tents where the UNHRD LAB has suggested the implementation of solar panels and is testing its suitability to fields settings. This activity builds on one of the very first projects of the UNHRD Lab, the Temperature Controlled Unit (TCU), and is part of a research and development series to keep foods and medicine in the field.



Upon realizing that 10% of what is delivered to humanitarian contexts turn into waste, the UNHRD LAB has engaged in efforts to improve packaging, including by reusing it or giving it a second life. New solutions under development would benefit the beneficiaries, who would receive more efficient relief items, and the environment, especially in terms of what is left behind from humanitarian operations.


In poor or disaster areas, energy sources can be costly, scarce and unreliable and also very harmful to the environment. Wood fuel in most cases requires a cumbersome collecting process. As the kitchen set is one of the most delivered relief items, the UNHRD LAB is redesigning its packaging to be easily turned into a solar cooker. This solution is easy-to-set-up as it requires no more than three steps to set up the solar cooker in less than a minute. It is also environment-friendly as it reduces waste and consumption and the effects of fossil fuels.


Family tents are shipped in large wooden crates that most of the time become waste or wood fuel, both having an environmental impact. As these tents are often used by families with small children, but they don’t come with accessories for babies, the UNHRD LAB has redesigned the crate to be used as a cradle for small children from 0 to 4 months. With a key support from the suppliers, who would have to modify the proportion of the crate and include some tools, this project would add a new and innovative relief item to UNHRD’s catalogue, in addition to the standard family tent.

Cradle Tent

Capacity Strengthening

Capacity Strengthening

Over the years, UNHRD Kuala Lumpur has become a key actor in supporting capacity development activities in the Asia Pacific region. In 2018, through 19 classroom sessions and simulation exercises, the team facilitated/co-facilitated preparedness and response related events reaching more than 2,660 local authority members, university students and other humanitarian actors.

Some highlights include:

  • Briefed participants on Humanitarian Preparedness and evacuation mapping through simulation exercises for the district of Selangor.
  • Introduced the UNHRD system and warehouse as part of the Humanitarian Supply Chain Management training to Master’s students at University Teknologi Malaysia.
  • Briefed 1000 people from schools, community and agencies affected during the 2004 Tsunami on logistics preparedness through a Disaster Imaginary Game (DIG) previously introduced in Japan.
  • Co-facilitated an 8 days training on high impact community-based disaster reduction to 500 members in Kundasang, Sabah.
  • Co-facilitated a "government link companies" disaster response network in Malaysia with Telekom Malaysia.
  • Facilitated a two-day programme on Operational Emergency Logistics including on principles and practices of emergency response planning and communication that aims to look into ways to strengthen capacities of emergency response agencies and disaster-prone communities.
Brindisi Training

With the premises, generously assigned by the Italian Government, UNHRD Brindisi has become a centre of excellence for trainings, offering a unique set for scenario-based simulations and exercises to prepare humanitarian staff for the field. In 2018, UNHRD Brindisi hosted and facilitated trainings for 73 participants including the Function and Support Training for Emergency Response (FASTER) of WFP, as well as for the Master in Humanitarian Operations in Emergencies from the non-profit Social Change School.

Behind the scenes

Behind the scenes

Shipments, tonnages, cubic metres, countries and partners served, values of goods dispatched, services provided, deployments to the field - behind these figures are UNHRD logisticians, storekeepers, drivers, and the Rapid Response Team members. Based out of Brindisi, Italy, the UNHRD Support Office works on the administration, finance, human resources, and procurement activities that keep the operations moving. The Support Office launches bids, establishes Long Term Agreements, and procures items to replenish the warehouses throughout the network; they hire new staff and organise deployments; they administer contributions, release and monitor funds, and process invoices; these are a few examples of what they do, on a daily basis, behind the scenes. The Support Office is vital in maintaining the efficiency and effectiveness of UNHRD operations.

Some of the team-members have been working with UNHRD for many years, some even since its creation in 2000. They know its mechanisms inside-out and can provide operational support to their colleagues across the Network. In 2018, the Support Office also provided assistance to WFP Supply Chain on projects such as the DRC Ebola Crisis response, providing back office support to the staff and operations on the ground.