In the field: 10 minutes with Georgia Farley
“It’s never a quiet day, and coming up to rainy season, it’s only going to get busier. But that’s what makes the job so interesting.”
In north-east Nigeria, Georgia Farley is the Logistics Sector’s Information Management Officer. Between reviewing operational documents, drafting daily updates and liaising with partners, Georgia sits down with us to talk through logistics in Nigeria, life as an Information Management Officer, and how the team there collaborates with partners to build capacity and new skills.
Georgia, thank you for your time. To start, what’s your role in Nigeria and how do you support the Logistics Sector?
I’m the Information Management Officer (IMO) for the Logistics Sector in north-east Nigeria, based in Maiduguri. In my role here I compile and analyse operational information, and then share this with humanitarians to encourage a more efficient and effective logistics response. My day-today involves producing and disseminating Logistics Sector products (Operation Overviews, Snapshots, Meeting Minutes), and working directly with our NGO, UN and Government counterparts.
Prior to Nigeria you were working in Iraq. Can you talk us through how you adapted to new working and living environments?
I was deployed to Iraq in the weeks following the onset of the Mosul offensive, in November 2016. It was my first real field assignment so everything was very new; I was learning almost everything as I went. After 18 months in Iraq, I had a lot more experience and transferable skills so was able to hit the ground running when I was asked to join the team in Nigeria.
This is my first time in Nigeria, and the African continent more broadly, and the operating (and living) environment is very different from Iraq, but I now have a few rituals that help me adjust when I arrive somewhere new. I always carry a few small personal items and some fabrics, and wherever I put them down, that becomes home.
I always carry a few small personal items and some fabrics, and wherever I put them down, that becomes home.
What’s it like working in humanitarian logistics in Nigeria?
As an IMO, I am much more involved in the actual logistics than I expected when I first deployed; I’m not always behind a computer, which is great!
In Iraq, I was conducting joint assessments along with the Roving Logs Officer, meeting partners in remote camp locations, and helping to problem solve at the central hub in Erbil. In Nigeria, it’s a small team and we have to cover for each other when someone is out, so again I’m getting the chance to support the logistics, coordination and even civil-military aspects of the operation.
Overall, I think this all helps to strengthen my skills as an IMO, because the more I experience and understand each element of an operation, the better the quality of the information I’ll be looking for, considering and sharing.
Can you talk us through some of the logistical challenges facing humanitarian workers in Nigeria?
Getting humanitarian supplies to the most affected areas is difficult. Due to the very high levels of insecurity in the North East of the country over the last few years, it has been nearly impossible to conduct any kind of road or bridge rehabilitation in the area. This, combined with the continuing insecurity, means many of the arterial supply routes in the NE have become very difficult to navigate, particularly in the rainy season.
Always have snacks on hand, because you never know where your day will end up (or how long it will be).
How does the team in Nigeria collaborate with partners to help overcome these constraints?
Most humanitarian supplies heading to field locations have to be transported as part of a convoy, over half of which require an escort. A key activity for the Sector in Nigeria is compiling humanitarian movement requests and liaising with authorities, on partners’ behalf, to make sure aid gets to where it’s needed.
The team currently manages seven (soon to be eight) common storage facilities in the field, each being operated by an NGO partner. These sites can be utilised by any humanitarian organisation requiring temporary storage, on a free-to-user basis.
We’re also increasingly focused on capacity building. Where feasible, we try to leverage the skills of specialised partners and collaborate on training and knowledge sharing initiatives to benefit all our operational partners. Some great examples are the Première Urgence Internationale (PUI) team who operate the Sector-managed Maiduguri facility and are really active in the warehouse management trainings, and WHO that has supported with sessions focused on medical logistics.
Finally, what are the three things you wish you knew prior to working as an Information Management Officer for the Logistics Cluster:
o The better you are at Excel, the easier your life will be.
o Always have snacks on hand, because you never know where your day will end up (or how long it will be).
o Maintaining a sense of humour is essential.