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Kenya: joining efforts to deliver emergency aid to Pakistan

27-08-2010 Interview

Since the beginning of the crisis in Pakistan, the ICRC has done its utmost to deliver emergency aid, using all its available resources, including in Africa. The head of the ICRC's Regional Logistics Centre in Nairobi, Philippe Mons, explains how his team has been involved.

  ©ICRC/A. Grimm    
  ICRC-chartered Emirates plane being loaded with tarpaulins for flood victims in Pakistan. It's the latest of seven planes to leave Nairobi with relief items for Pakistan over the past two weeks.    

  ©ICRC/A. Grimm    
  Inside view of the ICRC-chartered Emirates plane being loaded with tarpaulins for flood victims in Pakistan.    
  Philippe Mons    
     The Regional Logistics Centre is supporting the emergency operation in Pakistan. What kind of assistance is sent from Kenya?  

For more than two weeks now, my team here at the Regional Logistics Centre has been working very hard to support the emergency operation in Pakistan. Nairobi is a regional hub in terms of logistics and in terms of humanitarian aid. The ICRC has therefore decided to draw on these assets to be able to deliver emergency relief supplies as fast as possible to the people in need in Pakistan.

So far, seven chartered airplanes have left Nairobi in the past two weeks for either Peshawar or Islamabad, all fully loaded with essential household items. A vast number of items, including a total of 30,000 blankets and almost 77,000 tarpaulins to build emergency shelters, have left our warehouses here. Overall, the airplanes carried almost 450 tonnes of relief supplies from Kenya to Pakistan in the past two weeks.


 And this emergency support to Pakistan was a joint effort?  

Yes, indeed. It was a joint effort in the sense that aircraft with relief materials left from Nairobi, as well as from Amman, Geneva and Kuala Lumpur. We definitely benefit from the fact that the ICRC is a well-established humanitarian organization, with important logistics hubs all over the world. In an acute crisis like this one, we can react very quickly. Presently in Nairobi our emergency stocks are almost empty, but we have already placed replenishment orders and should be fully stocked again by the end of September.

This operation has also been a joint effort in the sense that we have worked closely with our Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement partners. As we did not have a sufficient amount of plastic sheeting available in our Mombasa and Nairobi warehouses, we asked the Kenyan Red Cross (KRCS) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for their help. The KRCS has been able to help us out with 15,000 sets of plastic sheeting and the Federation with 3,500. This all makes a big difference.

 The Regional Logistics Centre is quite busy in normal times. How did your team cope with this additional workload?  

Well, I am proud to say that we managed to handle this first phase of the emergency without actuall y neglecting other ongoing operations in the region. We managed to handle all pending orders simultaneously, only slightly postponing a few minor requests by two to three weeks maximum. That also meant loading the airplanes sometimes during the night, and my team has done a remarkable job, working many extra hours. I also have to mention that we did get a lot of support from colleagues at the ICRC's regional delegation in Nairobi, as well as from the delegation for Somalia also based in Nairobi.

For many years, with the exception of the tragic post election violence in 2008, Kenya has been a stable country with a relatively good infrastructure – the port of Mombasa, the railway and the road up to the lakes. That is why years ago, the ICRC established logistics and support hubs here for our delegations in the countries surrounding Kenya and beyond. It is in moments like this, during an emergency operation, when everyone joins in the effort, that this strategy proves to be the right choice, and it feels good to be part of the team.