Since the early weeks of the conflict in Ukraine, the Logistics Cluster has been working with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to address challenges related to medical logistics. Through the established Medical Logistics Working Group, they have worked side by side to support the movement and delivery of medical supplies to the most affected areas, and a smooth flow of information throughout the first days of the response.
Dani Jurman, Humanitarian Supplies Analyst with UNFPA was deployed to Poland two weeks after the outbreak of the conflict. When she arrived in-country, information was changing rapidly and collaboration and coordination among the humanitarian logistics community were more vital than ever for operational planning.
“It was a big change. Many actors were already operating in Ukraine before the war and at the same time a whole host of new actors were coming in. On top of this, regulations and infrastructure availability were fast changing. Accessibility to logistics service providers was diminishing and suddenly, we also had to learn about the requirements from the EU Member State countries such as Poland, which we never had to work with before” said Dani.
Below, we chat with Dani about medical logistics, lessons learned and the importance of information sharing in humanitarian operations.
You were deployed within the first days of the war starting. Can you give us a sense of what it was like when you first arrived?
Very dynamic, but also hectic. UNFPA had a presence in-country before the war, so we had some starting ground, which was helpful. I was keen to start collaborating with partners early on, as part of my deployment was to partially support and work closely with the Logistics Cluster, to discuss challenges related to medical logistics – from customs to availability of transporters and storage requirements.
What were some of the most important information-sharing mechanisms put in place?
The establishment of the Logistics Cluster coordination meetings from the very beginning was incredibly useful. The meetings were robust, and every topic was discussed thoroughly. This also helped everyone understand where more streamlined information was needed– for instance, the customs help desk or the Medical Logistics Working Group.
The other important component to information sharing was understanding the plans of the Logistics Cluster and of other partner organisations. At the start, one of my main responsibilities was developing a Concept of Operations for UNFPA– and given the quick-changing context, this was a big challenge for every organisation. By understanding what common services would be facilitated through the Logistics Cluster, where other partners were establishing operations and where we may be able to collaborate, I was able to strengthen our organisational planning too.
You mention the Medical Logistics Working Group. This group was facilitated by the Logistics Cluster and chaired by UNFPA. Why was this important to establish?
Specific information or coordination mechanisms relating to medical logistics aren’t always established by default at the start of a response. So, to provide a space for that – a forum for partners to talk about some of those specific issues– helped partners in overcoming barriers quickly.
But also, to provide best practices. One area where many partners experienced challenges was the importation of narcotics – WHO was able to support and develop Standard Operating Procedures around this. UNFPA did the same thing for the importation of vehicles for medical use.
Fast forward to today as the Logistics Cluster operation is entering its fifth month. What are some of the biggest lessons learned?
I think internally we have been doing a lot of work within UNFPA to strengthen understanding of the role of the Logistics Cluster beyond common services, highlighting the importance of engaging with partners to help put different pieces of the puzzles together. By doing so we are able to gain a more complete insight over the operational context - and each humanitarian actor isn’t reinventing the wheel.
On medical logistics specifically, I think as a health partner having that working group established in the very early days was incredibly impactful and effective, especially as the situation was so dynamic and changing each day. It would be interesting to see how we can take the lessons and the framework of this group and apply it to different operations moving forward.
If you wish to learn more about the work of the Logistics Cluster in Ukraine, please visit the dedicated webpage.