What would you tell your pre-deployment self? Behind the scenes of the Rohingya Crisis
From challenging weather patterns, to collaboration and teamwork, hear from four women spearheading the WFP-led Logistics Sector operation in Cox’s Bazar on life, logistics and what they’ve learnt while working on one of the fastest growing crises in recent years.
As the 12 month-mark of the Rohingya Crisis approaches, the total refugee population is now reported to be an estimated 905,000, with some 655,000 new arrivals since 25 August 2017, pushing resources and logistics systems to the limit.
With monsoon season in full swing, and the downpour of heavy rains an almost-daily reality, logisticians working on the ground are now, more than ever, faced with navigating an incredibly diverse range of logistics constraints and bottlenecks.
“Reading the situation reports and updates didn’t fully contextualize the operation in my mind until I had to trudge through a foot of slush and mud to come to the hub in the morning. It was only when I actually drove through the camp that I understood the sheer volume of people we are trying to serve.”
Shilpa Anjali is the Hub Manager for the Logistics & Engineering Hub in Madhu Chara in Cox’s Bazar. She’s just one of the dedicated logisticians behind the operation, working around the clock to ensure aid supplies and relief items are getting where they need to go. Here, we find a rare spare moment to chat with Shilpa and three of her Logistics Sector colleagues about what they’d tell their pre-deployment selves…
Shilpa Anjali, Hub Manager, Logistics & Engineering Hub in Madhu Chara in Cox’s Bazar
“The first thing I’d tell myself would be that I would be working on and learning something new every single day.
Secondly, I’d tell myself to have confidence in the amount of support that would be made available to me when it was needed. While the work is both physically and mentally taxing, the sense of camaraderie with my fellow colleagues really helps.
Lastly, I’d tell myself is that waterproof and monsoon-proof are two completely different things, and umbrellas are not helpful when the rain is sideways! Bring wellies!”
Lucy Styles, Logistics Sector Coordinator
“The three things I would tell myself?
Number one, always download a map from the Logistics Cluster website to read on the plane to your deployment. Number two, you can read everything you can find but you’ll never understand the layers of complexity that can affect the operation.
And number three?
How much keeping your sense of humour and a big smile is vital. Working long hours in challenging environments can be stressful on everyone, but smiling and having a good laugh keeps the spirits of you and your colleagues up in some of the more difficult times.
Oh, and bring tabasco sauce!”
Alex Parisien, Information Management Officer
“As this is my first position with the Logistics Sector I did not fully know what to expect. New country, new team, but a familiar role as IMO. Being an IMO with the Logs Sector/Cluster is very different than with other placements. The way that the Global Logistics Cluster is managed and supported means that if you don’t understand something you can probably find reference to it from another operation or by reaching out to HQ. I would tell myself that I would instantly have the support of a global team and that I wouldn’t be on my own trying to figure things out. I’d also tell myself not to worry about my new team because things just clicked from the first step I took into the team prefab on my first day.
Secondly, the “waterproof” labels of the gear that I’d brought with me may have been slightly optimistic.
Lastly, it’s 80% about the relationships – with your team, with the office, with all the people you work with from different organisations on the response, with the man who sells bananas to you at the market and the guys who run the restaurant at the hotel. The relationships will make or break your ability to complete your tasks quickly and also determine if you get the good bananas or the bruised ones."
Priya Pradhanang, Cargo Tracking Officer
“I’d tell myself don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand! Everyone is extremely helpful and will try to make you understand the concept.
I would also tell myself that you will gain lots of field experience and get a good overview of other WFP programmes. I’d tell myself that the experience you’ll have in Bangladesh will be completely different to any other emergencies you’ve experienced.
Lastly? That you’ll make a lot of friends from around the world and will learn something from each and every one of them.”
Based on the needs of the humanitarian community the Logistics Sector supports the Government of Bangladesh-led response by facilitating access to critical logistics services, consolidating and sharing key information on logistics capacities and the operating environment, and enhancing the capacity of the responding organisations to maintain an uninterrupted supply chain of life-saving relief items. More here: https://logcluster.org/sector/bangl17