Voices from the field
No roads. No electricity. No landing strip. How do we get supplies to those who need them most? Nathalie Rothschild, Action Against Hunger’s associate director of logistics, explains...
Aug 14 2015
The recent earthquakes in Nepal highlighted the challenges that international relief organisations like Action Against Hunger face when delivering aid.
Nepal offered its own unique set of logistical tests, for example, the roads were completely inaccessible for days. Even when roads in Nepal are in their best condition, they are passable only with specialized vehicles. In addition, the population is spread out, so reaching a critical number of people requires covering vast terrain—in some cases, we opt for airplanes instead.
In an emergency, our teams on the ground must be equipped to prevent and treat a variety of hunger-related illnesses and to provide access to clean water and sanitation. It’s a huge part of what the logistics team does, and in many ways, it’s our most challenging work. I feel so proud to have spent 20 years of my career making sure that the lifesaving people, supplies, and equipment can be purchased, deployed, and maintained—economically and safely.
We work in some of the toughest environments on the planet. I’ve witnessed unrelenting aid workers use whatever means are available— donkeys in Nepal, boats in Myanmar, planes small enough to land on miniscule landing strips in South Sudan, bikes in Bangladesh, and barely passable bridges in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
We set up feeding and distribution centres where nothing existed before – bringing in power, building warehouses to preserve supplies, purchasing livestock to help people rebuild their livelihoods after they have lost all they own, providing adequate living and office space to our teams, and setting up satellite and radio equipment to provide necessary communication between our workers, our headquarters, and the world at large. The list is infinite and ever-changing.
Our job is never the same. Each situation requires a completely different way of thinking, a new set of partners, and a surprising set of logistical obstacles which, if we didn’t overcome, lives would be lost. If we didn’t anticipate needs and meet the challenges within days, the consequences would be grave. My amazing team of logisticians works each and every day with incredible dedication, perseverance, creativity, and stamina.
I write this to let you know how your support goes to work every day, all over the world. I also write because my team and I want to thank you personally. You help us do our job: to ensure that food, water, and life-saving supplies arrive and can be distributed effectively before it is too late. Logistics saves lives.
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