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Supply Chain & Logistics in Syria

When you think of a humanitarian crisis what is the first thing you think of? Thousands of people fleeing conflict or a natural disaster? Yes. People living in tents at sides of roads? Yes. Hunger, thirst and lack of sanitation facilities? Yes. But would you ever think about Supply Chain & Logistics in conflict zones? How does that work? Does it happen at all? Surely it must be haphazard, small loads/multiple deliveries. Where would you even start?

Dear Linkline Readers, I am the Managing Director and Founder of the Emergency Logistics Team. I am currently working with Goal as interim Logistics Coordinator in Syria (one of the largest projects that Goal has engaged in). Hundreds of thousands of people in the Idleb Governorate area of north west Syria depend on Goal for the daily water and sanitation requirements. This is in itself a massive logistical and engineering project with large scale generators supplying the energy required to pump millions of litres of water and daily repairs having to be carried out in very dangerous locations with the constant threat of air strikes which could occur any time, day or night. Without going into the specifics of this, as it would take too long, it takes a sizeable team of people to manage and carry out all of the daily functions of what is a municipal area of approx. 1.5 million people. But life here goes on…

An example of one of our logistics operations is the supply of flour to local bakeries. Thousands of metric tonnes of flour are delivered throughout north west Syria and a huge cost reaching into the millions of US dollars. Full procurement processes follow, ensuring transparency throughout, coordination between suppliers, hauliers, security check point of the Syrian border and then onward to be distributed throughout Idleb to numerous bakeries where contracts were awarded based on quality and ability to produce huge amounts of bread on a daily basis.

And how could we forget the food kits and NFI (non-food items) that are required in the region. Again procurement in the tens of millions of US dollars in the pipeline and already delivered in 2015 alone. Yet it is barely enough to cover the regions requirements. Close to 100,000 food kits are either on order, en route or in our warehouses in Syria. Think about this for a minute: that is 100,000 families food supply for about a month. Basic rations which should technically cover their calorific requirements but with the funding reducing, or not being realised in the first instance with approx 60% of funding for 2015 not yet received, this results in choices having to be made: do we supply a smaller number of families or do we reduce the food kit so that the same number of families receive at least something so they do not starve. What a call to make…

And then we have the rest of the logistics operations to consider. Over 400 staff based throughout Syria and Turkey, laptops, phones, office supports, HR, finance, security, training, health & safety and so on. While all the time recognising the fact that many of our Syria staff have been deeply affected by the conflict as it is ongoing, it is real and its happening every single day. Their mental health is foremost in our minds as we ask them to carry out their normal workload in such a bizarre situation for them and their families. We all have our own problems and we sometimes struggle to concentrate on our work so just try to imagine how it is to work in this environment.

So I hope to have explained in a small way the enormity of the Supply Chain & Logistics operation that is ongoing here now and will be for the foreseeable future. We in the Irish Emergency Logistics Team are working towards developing and delivering humanitarian and emergency logistics training for entry level, transition year school kids, adult education centres and also for private companies who should be prepared to work in these interesting countries. Feel free to contact me directly at for further details.


Will Holden CMILT

Managing Director/Founder
Emergency Logistics Team Ltd.

will h 2




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