Bringing Humanitarians Together

Interview with Eric Itin, Preparedness Expert for the Logistics Cluster in Colombia
31 December 2020
Eric in 2020. Photo: Eric Itin

Eric Itin recently joined the Global Logistics Cluster to take part in the Colombia Preparedness project. In this interview he accepted to share his thoughts and experience on working in the humanitarian sector as a Preparedness Expert in Colombia.

 

Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you came to work for the Preparedness project? 

I am an Argentinian national having my first experience working for the Global Logistics Cluster. Previously I worked some years as an engineer in the private sector before moving to the humanitarian sector. My first experience as a humanitarian was in my home country. Although this confirmed what I wanted to do with my life, I felt I needed to learn much more. Consequently, I left Latin America looking for knowledge and tools I could use back here.

I joined an international NGO and spent some years working around the globe. After these last years, I felt it was the right time to return to my region and apply the skills and knowledge I had developed. The Preparedness project in Colombia offered me the possibility to match the needs of the region with my wish to be useful where I feel I belong.

 

The Preparedness project in Colombia offered me the possibility to match the needs of the region with my wish to be useful where I feel I belong.

 

You took over shortly before Iota and La Nina, and in the midst of COVID-19, how has this impacted your work?  

COVID-19 restrictions have had a big impact on the development of relationships with stakeholders such as the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) counterparts, World Food Programme (WFP) Country Office colleagues, and Logistics Working Group focal points as I have not been able to meet them physically yet. These relationships are key to reaching the goals within the timeframe given for this project.

On top of these challenges, the natural disasters in the region (such as Iota hurricane and La Niña storms) have shown the need to enhance coordination between the different stakeholders involved in a humanitarian response as a silo approach can impact the efficiency of emergency responses.

There is also a great need to invest in capacity and knowledge management for logistics and supply chain in the region.

 

The first priority is to demonstrate to all stakeholders why it's important to coordinate and work together.

 

Do you feel that the COVID-19 global pandemic reinforced the humanitarian organisations interest to coordinate and work together?

As far as the effects can be assessed already, not necessarily. From what I have observed myself, the pandemic prompted an insular behaviour; in addition, coordination efforts have been severely affected by the inability to meet other stakeholders face-to-face. With or without the COVID-19 emergency, I think that humanitarian responses in Latin America have a different form than in other regions of the world as they are very often led by Governments, logistics gaps are very specific, and the humanitarian community is not always structured in the same way. The first priority is to demonstrate to all stakeholders why it is important to talk about logistics and work together through concrete actions to achieve bigger goals than we would be capable of reaching individually. I think this is one of the main challenges for now, not only for Colombia but for the region. The Preparedness project is a good way to start and generate momentum.

 

What do you enjoy most about your new role? 

One of the key things driving me is the social impact of our work and the effect it has on the daily life of those who are not fortunate to be born in better contexts. I like to know I am a part of something bigger that is bringing positive changes to the region. The Preparedness project is an initiative that brings all sectors together to develop plans and actions, which will help mitigate the impact when a crisis strikes.  I am happy to contribute to this effort.

 

I like to know I am a part of something bigger that is bringing positive changes to the region.

 

Do you have a hobby that you manage to practice while in the field?

I used to do humanitarian documentary photography in my previous humanitarian jobs as a side job/hobby for the organization I was working for. I think the people we support have amazing stories to share that should be widely known. Perhaps it does not sound like something work-related, but for me it triggers my creative side, and it reminds me ofwhy I do what I do. I hope to be able to do it at some point here as well.