Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago, with a population of over 252 million people spread across some 18,000 islands. The country is one of the most disaster-prone in the world, regularly experiencing weather-related calamities and more earthquakes per year than any other country on earth.
Faced with these continual risks, the Government of Indonesia is taking proactive measures to ensure populations receive appropriate and rapid assistance when a disaster strikes. Since 2014, national authorities have been closely partnering with WFP and UNICEF through the Ready to Respond project to implement preparedness actions that positively enhanced the country’s readiness.
Those actions proved useful when on 7 December 2016, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit Aceh Province in the West and resulted in 104 deaths, 85,133 displaced people and 7,814 damaged houses.
The Governor of the Province swiftly declared an emergency response status, four nationally-led clusters were rapidly activated and national, provincial and local governments were able to handle the response in an efficient manner, with no international assistance needed or requested.
The Ready to Respond project, supported by DFID, helped in providing faster, better and cheaper relief operations through a range of preparedness investments: strategic prepositioning of response equipment, establishment of rapid response teams, reinforcing supply systems for aid delivery, and enhancing people’s skills and awareness for disaster responses.
During the project, a team of WFP logistics experts was set up and is now ready to be deployed at 12 hours’ notice anywhere in Indonesia to complement Government’s emergency responses as required. In fact, logisticians were deployed the day after the Aceh earthquake and provided technical recommendations to the National Disaster Management Agency on logistics response operations.
In addition, WFP’s long term support to the Government led to the establishment of a National Logistics Cluster; which also deployed a response team following the earthquake. The Head of the Disaster Management Authority reiterated his satisfaction of its collaboration with WFP, while lessons from this response are being incorporated into Standard Operating Procedures for the National Logistics Cluster’s Response Team.
Besides, WFP had facilitated the involvement of the Indonesian Association of Freight Forwarders (ALFI) into the National Logistics Cluster. After the earthquake, ALFI was able to set up two operations cells in Aceh and Medan that provided logistics support for incoming relief supplies. The cells were actively supported by private transport companies, reflecting the ever increasing role of private logistics service providers in emergency preparedness.
Beyond their use in the Aceh response, further preparatory measures of the Ready to Respond project remain in place, with some being used in other emergency responses:
Prepositioning of operational equipment that will facilitate a rapid scaling up for aid delivery right after an emergency occurs: material is placed in disaster-prone areas such as West Java and Banten, and would otherwise have to be airlifted at considerable cost from the UN depot in Malaysia. It includes essential telecommunication kits, basic storage structures, mobile power source and office supplies for rapid establishment of logistics operations in the field.
UNICEF also purchased items for child protection and education which were pre-positioned with support from the Government and NGOs. Prior training held with these partners enabled a quick use of the items and the quick establishment of child friendly and learning spaces to support children affected by the flash floods in West Java in September 2016.
Another important preparedness initiative carried under the project were the assessments of existing logistics capacities in Sumatra and Java Islands to identify potential gaps in delivery of humanitarian aid. Conducted together with WFP, Government agencies, NGOs, military and academic partners, these exercises collected critical information on existing transportation infrastructure, logistics service providers, airports, seaports and storage facilities that could potentially be used to supply food assistance in future disasters.
WFP also helped establish two provincial clusters to foster logistics arrangements at local level in West Sumatra and Yogyakarta provinces. These structures help bringing together all logistics actors present in the provinces to facilitate joint planning prior to emergencies and coordination during responses. Notably, as these setups proved a success in providing faster and better response, other provinces have requested similar arrangements to be replicated in different parts of the country.
WFP and UNICEF also conducted training and simulations of disasters situations to reinforce people’s readiness to act in case of large emergencies. Over 250 partners from Government and civil society in 8 provinces attended training on education, child protection, nutrition, and water and sanitation in emergencies. Staff were also trained to design and manage response operations and to use mobile logistics and telecommunications equipment.
These exercises have proved crucial in ensuring that people have the right skills and tools to deliver quick and efficient assistance when needed. For instance, in North Sumatra in February 2015, Government staff and a group of frontline psychosocial support workers who had received training from UNICEF were rapidly deployed to support displaced people. Other trainees who received training on nutrition in May 2015, have also responded to multiple small emergencies providing support on nutrition to affected populations.
Throughout 2016 and until today, WFP and UNICEF continued to provide expert and technical support to the Government of Indonesia and other partners, contributing to enhance the country’s preparedness in facing future disasters and providing faster and better assistance to those in need.
Find out more on the Ready to Respond project: http://www.humanitarian-preparedness.org/
WFP work in Indonesia: http://www1.wfp.org/countries/indonesia
UNICEF work in Indonesia: https://www.unicef.org/indonesia/
And how it helps to better respond to the Lake Chad Region crisis
In the Lake Chad Region, that includes part of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad, attacks by Boko Haram have uprooted and displaced 2.3 million people to date. Violence, combined with chronic drought, cholera and poverty have created one of the most complex and severe humanitarian crises in today’s world.
Nigeria and Lake Chad Region situation - February 2017:
WFP emergency dashboard – February 2017: Full document at: http://reliefweb.int/report/nigeria/nigeria-emergency-dashboard-february-2017
Out of the 17 million people living in the Lake Chad Region, some 10.7 million are in critical need of food, water and shelter. Delivery of assistance, however, is made very challenging due to the volatile security situation and remoteness of the region.
Communities in the area are also facing the devastating impact of climate change and excessive irrigations as the Lake waters are drying up and many people are no longer able to live from fishery (waters went from 25,000 km² superficies in the 1960’s to just about 2,500 km² today).
In this fragile environment, new humanitarian crises are susceptible to flare up at any time. Four UN agencies (UNICEF, WFP, UNHCR and OCHA) with the support of DFID, have therefore decided to invest together in the Ready to Respond Project to get the region better prepared for further escalation of violence and potential new emergencies - while in parallel keep responding to immediate and urging needs.
Starting in 2014, the agencies have undertaken a whole range of preventive actions in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger: they prepositioned relief items such as food, communication equipment and educational kits for children, they signed operational agreements with partners, assessed infrastructure for aid supply, organized emergency training for UN and partner staff – along with other preparatory measures that help the humanitarian community better respond to the ongoing crisis in the region.
Below are some of the most relevant examples of how preparedness helped in providing better and faster assistance to those in need, while making better use of resources and reducing carbon emissions.
Working alongside governments
In Nigeria, where violence uprooted 1.9 million people in the Northeast region, WFP and UNICEF have worked closely with the government to strengthen their staff capacity in responding to disasters. Over 200 participants from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and its state-level sister SEMA have followed hands-on trainings and learned how to conduct food security analysis, manage a warehouse, use emergency communications equipment and run biometric registration of beneficiaries.
This last training proved very useful when the 50 staff who had learned how to make registration using SCOPE (the WFP beneficiary management platform) were able to rapidly collect data on the needs of people displaced in June 2016 at the border with Niger. From this information WFP could design and deliver food assistance in a timely manner to 20,000 people through cash-based-transfers.
While food insecurity remains the greatest concern in Northeast Nigeria with 5.1 million projected food insecure in 2017, the Ready to Respond Project helped to dramatically increase the number of people reached over the past few months: food assistance went from 160,000 people in October 2016 to over one million in December and in January, an unprecedented achievement in the area.
Having resources in the right place
Prepositioning relief items close to where crises are likely to happen not only helps to quickly access and distribute them when an emergency occurs, it also lowers carbon emissions by reducing transportation.
Under the Project, UNICEF prepositioned supplies in Nigeria in locations where the risk of crises is high in the volatile Northeast regions. This proved of most use in 2015 when clashes erupted in the area and the agency was able to quickly access and distribute education materials to 15,000 children.
Likewise in Chad, WFP had strategically placed 50 metric tons of high energy biscuits and ready-to-use food, and when the situation deteriorated that same year in neighboring Nigeria, WFP could deliver food to displaced people and refugees in Chad in less than 48 hours - ensuring a rapid and cost-effective assistance to those fleeing violence.
Once again in June 2016, following attacks by Boko Haram in Diffa, Niger, UNICEF was able to treat 6,000 children affected by severe acute malnutrition and provide sanitation facilities for 30,000 affected people using its pre-positioned supplies.
WFP also managed to quickly set up an operational hub for humanitarian workers in the remote area of Bol in Chad (along the Nigerian border) by deploying prefabricated offices that had been placed in advance in the area. WFP was therefore among the first respondents to the crisis in 2015 in a region that saw very few humanitarian actors until mid-2016. During several months, the agency was even directly implementing food distributions due to the limited presence of cooperating partners.
Today, the humanitarian community’s presence is reinforced in the region with the establishment of additional bases and is planning to strengthen its hub for aid workers there - for instance with a UNHAS connection to the capital city of Chad (N’Djamena), making it easier to reach the hundreds of thousands of conflict-affected people with lifesaving assistance in over 60 displacement sites scattered in hard-to-access areas.
Monitoring people’s needs in hard-to-reach areas
In Niger, the Diffa region that shares borders with Nigeria has also seen massive population’s movements in the past years with currently over 105,000 refugees and 137,000 internally displaced people. As part of the Ready to Respond Project, WFP has introduced the mobile Vulnerability Analysis Mapping (mVAM) in Diffa, a useful survey that uses mobile phones to rapidly collect data in regions difficult to access, while also allowing to notice population’s movement. These surveys capture information on food consumption, dietary diversity and market behavior of the region’s population, which is then used to design rapid assistance if the situation deteriorates.
Meeting with beneficiaries in Diffa to test using mVAM and discuss their thoughts on the value of the tool, October 2016
In Cameroon this system is also in use and alerts humanitarian actors when the food security situation gets worse. WFP is monitoring the vulnerability of displaced populations in the highly insecure area of the extreme north of the country in support to the government’s early warning and disaster risk management strategies, thereby participating to strengthen national preparedness capacity
Besides, WFP set up its first beneficiary feedback mechanism in Cameroon to enhance its accountability and interaction with beneficiaries by allowing them to call directly when they have questions or complaints about WFP food assistance. A telephone hotline is connected to a platform that allows WFP’s personnel to receive timely complaints and address problems at an early stage.
Enhancing communications and security
Another useful preventive measure was the joint establishment by UN agencies of life-saving digital radio coverage at all times in remote parts of the Diffa region of Niger. Prefabricated containers were also installed in these volatile areas and provide safe office and housing for staff during tense periods when evacuation is not possible. Thanks to these facilities and improved connectivity, humanitarian actors can now spend consecutive days in the region, travel and communicate any new threat or displacement they witness.
Coordinating preparedness efforts to achieve greater impact
At the regional level, UN agencies also worked together to prepare for emergencies following the Emergency Response Preparedness (ERP) approach led by OCHA, including in countries affected by the Nigeria crisis. The ERP provides a set of essential actions that help humanitarian workers establish a minimum level of preparedness and ensure coordination prior to a disaster: from risk monitoring to information management and operational arrangements. The agencies organized a regional workshop in Dakar in February 2016, to train a pool of facilitators who can in turn assist countries to get better prepared in a coordinated way. After the workshop, the participants provided training in their own countries and supported the development of the minimum preparedness measures in Niger, Chad and in Cameroon. In the latter, the training led to the development of a contingency plan which will serve as a basis for initial planning within the first weeks of an emergency.
More information on the ERP at: https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/coordination/preparedness/erp-approach
How it is helping to better respond to the refugee crisis from South Sudan
Since December 2013, South Sudan has been the scene of an on-going conflict between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to ex-vice president Riek Machar. In July 2016, armed fighting escalated and ethnic tensions rose drastically amid a sharply deteriorating food security situation, triggering an increasing number of refugees fleeing to neighboring countries. In Uganda, an average of 2,200 people from South Sudan have been crossing into the country on a daily basis, bringing the total number of refugees and asylum- seekers from South Sudan to 770,000 in the country. 
With the Ready to Respond project supported by DFID, WFP in Uganda was able to realize a number of preparedness activities in 2015 and 2016, which greatly helped to better respond to the current South Sudanese refugee crisis. Cheryl Harrison, WFP Deputy Country Director in charge of operations in Uganda, said:
“Since July 2016, hundreds of thousands of vulnerable food insecure South Sudanese crossed the border into Uganda in search of security. The speed and magnitude to which WFP has been able to respond to the crisis has only been possible thanks to the preparedness work in anticipation of the emergency. The importance of the fund that donors dedicate to emergency preparedness is invaluable.”
From October 2015 onwards, WFP has been investing in preventive actions without which the scale and quality of the current response would never have been possible.
Prepositioning equipment where it’s needed
WFP purchased prefabricated facilities with the Ready to Respond funds, and when refugees started pouring from South Sudan in 2016, the teams were able to quickly install satellite offices and accommodations close to refugees’ settlements. This allowed personnel to assess urging needs as well as plan, implement and monitor emergency food support in a timely manner.
Many refugees are malnourished when they arrive in Uganda. In order to initiate treatment quickly, the necessary anthropometric and nutrition equipment (such as height boards, measuring tables, weighting scales etc.) have been prepositioned close to settlements and can be rapidly deployed when needed.
The connectivity is often very limited in the remote areas of Uganda where refugee settlements are established. With DFID funding, WFP purchased IT equipment (emergency mobile kits/voice and data ready-to-use set) which enhanced communications for field staff and allowed WFP to stay connected with offices and partners in Kampala. WFP also organized an inter-agency-training and simulation exercise on the use of IT in emergencies, which benefited to staff from 11 agencies. This has been widely appreciated by the UN country team, and is enhancing overall efficiency of the response to the South Sudan crisis.
Increasing storage space close to settlements
To be able to respond quickly to an emergency, WFP needs to preposition food and other relief items in advance, which is only possible if there is enough storage space in the country.
In the remote regions of Uganda in Kiryandongo and Adjumani where refugee settlements are particularly strained with the continued arrivals of South Sudanese, WFP significantly increased its storage capacity by setting up two new warehouses (with a combined capacity of 3,150 MT) and prepositioning four mobile storage units. Without these new spaces, the amount of food that was stored in the settlements would not cover the needs of the current and expected refugee populations.
On a larger scale, WFP is also putting in place an Advanced Positioning Center in Uganda that aims to serve the whole Great Lakes Region. There is an existing central delivery facility at Tororo in Eastern Uganda with 8,000 square meters of storage space across 3 permanent warehouse structures, one of which will be adapted for non-food items and will allow the different humanitarian actors (UN agencies, NGOs, governments etc.) to stock and dispatch relief items in a coordinated approach from a common location, allowing fast and cheaper response to emergencies.
Understanding people's needs for better assistance
While providing assistance to beneficiaries, WFP needs to pay special attention to vulnerable populations and coordinate well with other protection mandated agencies. This is especially important with the South Sudanese refugees who are mainly composed of women and children fleeing a violent conflict, notorious for gender based violence and ethnically motivated killings. With the support of a protection advisor, WFP has enhanced its guidance to partners on how to communicate with affected populations, revised its Standard Operating Procedures for distributions to make them more sensitive to vulnerable beneficiaries, and engaged with inter-agency coordination groups on protection. Besides, WFP conducted trainings for partners on the importance of accountability to affected populations and is launching a helpline to ensure complaints from vulnerable people are taken into account and addressed.
Not all refugees in Uganda have the same needs. To better understand vulnerability among refugee households and ensure that assistance is adapted, WFP together with UNHCR and the Government of Uganda are planning to conduct a comprehensive vulnerability study that will look at livelihood opportunities, income sources, food security and coping capacities, and differences in socio-economic vulnerability among refugees. The study will also assess the feasibility of targeting assistance based on refugees’ actual needs for future humanitarian response.
Enhancing staff skills and readiness
To get staff ready to respond, WFP organized a training for their personnel and partners on nutrition in emergencies. The training was organized jointly with UNICEF and UNHCR as they brought in their expertise in nutrition and displacement. This knowledge is put in practice today with the South Sudanese refugees as staff were able to quickly design and implement nutrition support for South Sudanese refugees.
WFP is also planning emergency response drills on cash-based transfers to reinforce its staff and local partners’ capacity to quickly distribute cash in future disasters. WFP also works closely with a number of other agencies involved in cash assistance and co-leads the inter-agency working group on cash based interventions. In addition, WFP is planning to conduct a separate simulation exercise with the Government on emergency response and coordination, which feeds into a new collaboration between WFP and the Office of the Prime Minister aiming at strengthening durably the latter’s capacities for emergency preparedness and response.
Refugee locations in Northwest Uganda – March 2017 at http://reliefweb.int/report/uganda/uganda-south-sudan-refugee-situation-info-graphic-bi-weekly-update-6-march-2017
Following poor rainy seasons over the past years, the south of Madagascar is currently facing a major drought crisis, with the El Nino phenomenon worsening the situation. About 1.2 million Malagasy are enduring food insecurity today, of whom 900,000 are in urgent need of assistance - the highest number in a decade.
Disasters are part of the daily life in Madagascar, not only does a large part of the population face food insecurity, natural hazards such as cyclones also affect the country on a regular basis. This is why the country was selected during 2014 and 2015 to be part of the ‘Ready to Respond’ Project, a preparedness initiative supported by DFID in several disaster-prone countries. Today, preparedness actions funded through the initiative are paying off in the response to the current drought. In November 2016, WFP reached 800,000 people with food assistance, cash-based transfers and nutritional support - all this in a timely and appropriate manner thanks to the Project preparedness investments.
A faster and better response to the drought thanks to preparedness actions
When asked which of the preparedness activities had been the most useful in responding to the drought, the WFP Country Office mentioned the capacity strengthening work done with partners and the local government. Together with WFP, key actors defined who should be doing what when a new disaster strikes, and agreed on roles and responsibilities from the national to the village levels. They also received trainings on how to best respond to a disaster, how to coordinate with other actors and share crucial information during a crisis.
Soloarisoa Raharinjatovo, WFP Programme Officer says: ‘We now see how this is being put in practice: while some of the information used to be late and inaccurate in reflecting people’s needs, today it’s on time, more reliable and therefore enables humanitarian actors to ensure coordination and make timely decisions on resources mobilization for assistance.’
At the same time WFP, as the lead of the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster, reinforced connectivity in very remote areas of the country that are barely accessible by road, let alone phone or internet. IT equipment kits purchased and prepositioned in the capital were deployed to two field offices in the South, which allowed to set up relief operations with more reliable communications and reinforce WFP’s presence in those hard-to-reach areas.
Registration of beneficiaries using SCOPE for the drought response in South Madagascar
A further step towards readiness was the set-up of the SCOPE platform across the country that supported the expansion of cash-based assistance throughout Madagascar. (SCOPE is the WFP registration system that supports all assistance modalities based on transfer, either in-kind commodity vouchers or cash-based transfers. It centralises all information on people receiving this assistance, their identities and entitlements, and allows to better track their specific food needs.) The SCOPE system relies on equipment for biometric registration, such as webcams, finger print, laptop, solar kit, and can work with or without connectivity. The platform is now used to register all WFP beneficiaries in Madagascar.
The WFP teams reported that the system really helped saving significant amount of time and avoiding problems during the distribution (such as double targeting of beneficiaries or duplication in general).
The SCOPE system is also used to setup a new e-voucher project for the drought response: 18,000 households will receive a card in early 2017 (when the drought is expected to reach its peak) so they can cash money or buy food in selected shops.
Ready for the cyclonic and floods season
On top of the drought in the South, the North-East of Madagascar has entered its cyclonic and floods season in November which is expected to be particularly bad this year due to La Nina phenomenon.
However communities and local authorities say they feel better prepared this year: they were provided with early warning kits (containing a mobile phone, megaphone, warning flags and solar radios) and were trained on how to react from the first signs of natural hazards using their kits. Relief equipment (two portable warehouses and motorized boats) was also prepositioned with the Civil Protection Body and can be deployed as soon as cyclones will start hitting.
Some of those measures have already proven useful in early 2016 when flooding swept through the northwestern region of Madagascar: the local authorities were able to raise the alarm quickly, evaluate people’s needs on time and communicate efficiently with humanitarian actors to set up aid operations. Likewise, during the floods in early 2015, having equipment prepositioned allowed humanitarian actors to assist up to 50% more people right after the disaster struck - without having to wait weeks for sea shipment or spend significant amounts on expensive and polluting air shipments.
Madagascar is one of the examples where preparedness actions have proved worth the investment by empowering UN agencies, the government and other partners in providing better life-saving assistance. Without those actions, the current response to the drought would not have been as fast, appropriate and coordinated as it is today.
WFP in Madagascar addresses food security and malnutrition challenges through a range of programmes, from encouraging access to education in food insecure areas, providing nutrition support to children and mothers, helping farmers to access market and delivering cash-based transfers assistance where food is available but not accessible to communities. Read more on WFP work in Madagascar at http://www.wfp.org/Countries/Madagascar
Recurrent armed conflict and ten years of blockade have resulted in persistent humanitarian needs and a shattered economy in Gaza (State of Palestine). Out of the 1.9 million population living there, 1.3 million are currently in need of humanitarian assistance. In addition to the blockade, the Gaza Strip is regularly hit by natural hazards, which further weaken the territory’s infrastructure and agriculture, causing additional stress on the most vulnerable people.
To better face these regular shocks, the UN agencies, with the support of DFID, have stepped up their preparedness efforts in Gaza since 2014, together with NGOs and the Palestinian Unity Government. The agencies, through the Ready-to-Respond Project, set up an emergency operation center, supported by the Ministry of Social Development to better assist newly displaced people, and established procedures for faster emergency interventions - amongst other preventive measures that helped to get the territory better prepared.
As a result, when the war broke out in 2014, WFP could rapidly expand its cash-based assistance to support more people displaced by the crisis. In regular times, WFP works with local shops in Gaza where beneficiaries can use a magnetic card to purchase relief goods, and when conflict erupted in 2014, about 30 more shops could rapidly be included into the system because they had been pre-identified. Other agencies such as UNICEF as well as NGOs were also able to utilize the platform, meaning that beneficiaries could purchase food, water, sanitation and hygiene items all at once using the One Card system.
Naheel, 40-year-old, who had to flee her home in Khan Younis when the conflict escalated in 2014, was able to use her card in one of the shops and purchase different types of food commodities, as well as water hygiene products. She recalls: “The programme addressed a pressing need, since we left our homes without taking anything”. Today in 2017, this system is still up and running and both WFP and UNICEF use it to provide various relief supplies to people who remain forcibly displaced.
Jamil and his mother Nuha collecting hygiene and sanitation materials they purchased at a shop in the Gaza Strip, using their card. WFP`s system can be used by other humanitarian actors such as UNICEF and UNRWA to provide other type of assistance. Credit: WFP/EyadAlBaba
On top of the One Card system, WFP is developing a roster of shops throughout the Gaza Strip that have the capacity to provide essential commodities and that can be contracted within 24 hours for emergency assistance, saving time and resources.
It also ensures that WFP staff and partners don’t have to take the risk of identifying new shops in the midst of unsecure emergency situations. At the same time, WFP is increasing its stock of equipment for its cash-based interventions: procuring additional magnetic cards that are ready for distribution, and programming equipment in shops like barcode readers and tablets so that the system is ready to be used.
At the same time, UN agencies are partnering with the Ministry of Social Development in Gaza to get their staff prepared in handling humanitarian operations on different technical areas. For instance, the social workers from the Palestinian Unity Government are responsible for collecting information on the number of people affected during crises and their most pressing needs. They guide people fleeing violence to seek protection in government-designated emergency shelters and get nutrition and food support. These activities require skills on information management as well as knowledge on nutrition and food issues, and the agencies have recently designed two training sessions for social workers:
Issa, a member of the shelter feeding team, said: “The training is very important, we feel more prepared now. It qualifies the shelter officials to do the right things when an emergency occurs”.
For more information on the work of WFP in Palestine visit: https://www.wfp.org/countries/palestine
 Read more on the One Card system in Palestine: https://www.wfp.org/stories/palestine-innovations-partnerships-one-card-assist