In 2021, Angola faced its worst drought in 40 years, leaving 1.58 million people in severe food insecurity. We spoke with Prabhu Govindaraj, an Indian Emergency Logistic Officer deployed by CANADEM to support local authorities with the drought response coordination.
1. Why did you decide to contribute your time and experience as a Standby Partner?
Despite the drought’s severity, the Angolan Government’s capacity to effectively address the situation proved to be limited. On the other hand WFP, one of the key humanitarian agencies in-country, was well positioned to support the Government with the food assistance’s implementation.
I immediately applied when I saw WFP was looking for an Emergency Logistics Officer to coordinate the logistic aspects of the drought response in the southern provinces of Cunene and Huila, some of Angola’s most vulnerable areas. I speak Portuguese fluently and, with over 30 years of experience in Supply Chain (including previous Standby Deployments in Angola), I knew I could add value to the operation.
2. What were the main challenges?
Operational needs were huge by the time I arrived in the field. Poor harvests had severely affected people’s access to food in these provinces highly dependent on agriculture and livestock. Food stocks from previous years were running low and vulnerable populations were struggling everyday to save their lives! Many wells had dried up forcing women and children to go far to fetch water. Sheperds were also transhuming and leaving their homes in search of better pastures for their herd.
3. What were your main tasks during this deployment?
Under the lead of the WFP Head of Programme, I was expected to strenghten the existing supply chain processes in Cunene and Huila. In other words, my role was to identify logistics bottlenecks, establish a common strategy to address challenges and ensure rapid distributions (the food basket included rice, maize, beans, vegetable oil and salt). In addition, I was required to train and support local partners in order to enhance their capacity to respond to shocks such as recurrent droughts.
4. How did you work with stakeholders?
I worked closely with the Civil Protection Authority, the Government entity providing food assistance and receiving WFP technical support. I provided guidance for the planning and dispatching of commodities. During distributions I was onsite to monitor and document the process. I also worked closely with other Government entities such as the Ministry of Health with which I helped launch a nutrition project.
Wth regards to United Nations partners, I shared an office with other agencies (WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, FAO and others), which facilitated synergies and made work more integrated and convivial. This collaboration ensured an inter-agency approach in support of the regional authority’s response to the drought.
5. What do you consider your top achievements and where do you feel you work has made an impact?
After a few months in the field I graduated as the Head of the WFP Cunene sub-office handling over 430 MT of assorted commodities, as well as trucking and logistics assets. Distributions in Huila and Cunene eventually assisted more than 30,000 beneficiaries. I am grateful for this mark of trust.
During this time I improved food distributions processes by launching plastic beneficiaries cards marked with WFP and the Civil Protection logos. This little change significantly facilitated distributions calculations and reduced waiting time for beneficiaries. It’s a good pratice that was enthusiastically adopted by local authorities in neighboring provinces. Furthermore, I was able to reduce WFP transport costs by getting the Civil Protection to loan us trucks. This is also a notable win!
6. What would be your message to Experts interested in a first Standby Partnership experience?
I would highly recommend it because it is truly an enriching career path. Over the years I completed several Standby Deployments and still appreciate the exposure to a wide range of work experiences. You get to support vulnerable communities while learning from them. Not to mention the new friends made along the way. I can’t wait to start my next mission!
Jose Carlos Ferrao, WFP Country Director for Angola, confirms that “Prabhu is a solid and well-rounded professional (who) has shown great management, flexibility and ability to swiftly readjust plans in light of changing circumstances. He has desmonstrated his capacity to multitask, an important quality in a fast-changing environment. His know-how of Supply Chain makes him a tremendous asset”.
Since 1991 WFP collaborates with a vast network of Standby Partners consisting of public and private organizations complementing WFP’s operational capacity by providing staffing, equipment, and services. Standby Partnerships are activated in various job positions and provide crucial support to WFP operations in emergencies or when WFP needs specific technical expertise. In 2021, 104 experts supported 37 Country Offices, 5 Regional Bureaux, and Headquarters. To request and deploy experts Standby Partners, please reach out to WFP Standby Partnerships team in the Emergency Operations Division at: firstname.lastname@example.org.