WFP SBP STORIES: Crispin Tshiasmala (Ethiopia)

Since 30 years WFP collaborates with a wide network of Standby Partners consisting of public and private organizations who complement WFP’s operational capacity through the provision of staffing, equipment and/or services. Standby Partnerships are activated in emergency situations or when WFP needs a specific technical expertise.

WFP Standby Partners Experts are deployed in various job positions and provide crucial support to WFP operations for a period ranging between 3 to 12 months. Currently, 42 experts from our standby partners network are working in 19 Country Offices, 4 Regional Bureaux and in Headquarters.

We have spoken with Crispin Tshiasmala, a Congolese expert deployed by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) for a 12 months period, to support the Level 3 Emergency response in the Tigray region, in Northern Ethiopia. Crispin told us about his responsibilities as a Logistics Roving Officer in this conflict-affected region where almost 4 million people require emergency food assistance.

Crispin from his office. @WFP
Crispin from his office. @WFP

1. Since January 2021 you are supporting WFP’s Emergency Response in Tigray, Ethiopia. Why have you decided to contribute your time and experience as a Standby Partner?

I am passionate about humani-tarian service. Since 2010 I have worked with MSB as a standby partner expert and as such I am periodically deployed in emergencies to fulfill technical gaps within UN agencies and other entities. I like the standby partnership mechanism be-cause it exposes me to a variety of complex operations.

When MSB informed me in January 2021 that WFP needed a Logistic Roving Officer in Ethiopia, I was naturally eager to support the response scale up in Tigray. Thanks to the speedy SBP process I was deployed to Tigray shortly afterwards to coordinate the Logistics Cluster’s activities in Mekelle (Tigray’s capital) and neighboring areas.

2. What are your main tasks during this deployment?

In most humanitarian operations there are 3 important Clusters led by WFP, Food Security, Emergency Telecommunications and Logistics. The Logistics Cluster provides the humanitarian community with timely logistics support and operational information. When there are bottlenecks in the supply chain infrastructure, the Cluster facilitates access to common services such as storage and inland transport.

As the Logistics Cluster’s Coordinator in Mekelle I manage daily operations to dispatch commodities coming from the capital Addis Ababa and distribute them across the Tigray region. Our team ensures that essential non-food and medical items urgently reach conflict-affected communities across Tigray. Training technical staff, monitoring missions, coordination meetings and streamlining standard operating procedures are also key components of my work.

3. How do you work with WFP’s team, partners and beneficiaries?

Crispin during warehouse visit with partners. @WFP

Collaboration is key in this area of work. Fortunately, there is a good team spirit within the Logistics Cluster and WFP’s Supply Chain staff. People are just great. Despite the difficult context, everyone is pro-fessional and motivated.

I also have good relations with other stakeholders, be they UN agencies, NGOs or private sector operators. We all understand that responding efficiently to such a crisis requires the coordinated work of various partners each contributing their unique added-value. If we want to provide beneficiaries with quality assistance, we must come together.

4. What challenges do you face during your assignment and how do you resolve them? What surprised you the most?

Tigray is affected by a series of issues, ranging from insecurity to hard-to-access areas and telecommunications disruptions. We have to be very cautious to avoid endangering our teams, partners and beneficiaries. This is why our convoys often require security clearance and escorts to pass checking points.

Another key challenge is having to occasionally work without phone or internet access. Considering that many NGOs don’t have VHF radio, when there are important communications to release I sometimes have to go around with a driver to dispatch information. Fortunately, WFP drivers are real troopers and know all partners offices in the field.

5. What are your top achievements and where do you feel you work has made an impact?

Strengthening the Logistics Cluster capacity and reach is definitely my main achievement. But other moments also stand out.

With the persisting COVID-19 pandemic and other epidemiologic risks, safety compliance is paramount, and all partners are striving to support the health responses led by the Government and WHO. When WHO solicited the Logistic Cluster in June 2021 to transport medical materials for a cholera vaccination campaign, we quickly mobilized trucks and deliver the 51MT cargo to 5 different locations in Tigray. The campaign was successful, and WHO later sent us an appreciation letter for our support. This made my day.

6. Has there been a special personal moment during your assignment, what is your best story?

I love capacity building activities and sharing my know-how. Unsurprisingly, one of my favorite moments was the 1st training I conducted in Mekelle. The objective was to inform partners about the Logistics Cluster services. Participants really enjoyed the session, including the visit we carried out at a WFP warehouse. By the end of the training all attendees had a better understanding of the type of support they could expect from the cluster. They even requested other training sessions. This first training made me realize the cluster’s critical role in Tigray and gave me a huge sense of responsibility and community, which was a great way to kick off my mission.

7. What are the main lessons learned?

Adaptability is key for success in humanitarian work. No matter what challenges we may face, we must not allow obstacles to hinder our willingness to meet our objectives. Despite the complexities of the Tigray operation, I remain determined to deliver quality work and ensure that lifesaving items reach vulnerable population.

Adam Effendi, WFP’s Head of Supply in Ethiopia, confirms that Crispin is a “pillar” of the Logistics Cluster: “His deployment has strengthened the logistic capacity of the Cluster as well as partners coordination. His knowledge of UN agencies from previous experiences was a big asset to quickly understand and support the Logistic Cluster’s work in Ethiopia”.


For deployment of standby expertise, provision of services and equipment through corporate partners, please reach out to ALITE team in the Emergency Division.


Recent Posts

See All