The Logistics Cluster facilitated the biggest inter-agency convoy of 2017; 99 vehicles, transporting cargo on behalf of nine organisations, left Juba on 15 December en-route on the Western corridor with multiple final destination points. This corridor is extremely important to the humanitarian community as it provides access to a number of locations and it especially important for dry season prepositioning as it will close almost completely during the rainy season.

The Logistics Cluster supports organisations prepositioning efforts to reduce reliance on costly airlifts. Blessing Dzambo, Logistics Officer in Rumbek, was one of the key actors in coordinating the convoy. We asked him about his role and the challenges encountered during the journey.

What was your role in coordinating the convoy?

One of my main duties was to maintain communication with the different actors involved. From Rumbek, I regularly contacted the drivers to enquire their location and receive first-hand information on physical access constraints and I updated the organisations on the convoy status. Moreover, I liaised with our Security Focal Point to report on potential threats and security incidents that may have jeopardized the safe passage of the convoy.

What are the biggest challenges drivers encounter on the trip?

Road transport in South Sudan is a difficult endeavour and most challenges are security related. Drivers often have to sleep in remote locations as the journey takes several days and vehicles are not allowed to move at night. Moreover, due to the poor physical conditions of the road, trucks often face mechanical problems and tire punctures. Maintaining communication with the drivers is not easy, as mobile phone coverage is non-existent in most areas in South Sudan. We sometimes resort to satellite phones, but these need to be charged and power is unavailable on the road.
To mitigate these risks different measures are in place. First of all, trucks travel in convoys with no movements at night, and they are marked with highly visible banners to show they transport humanitarian cargo, also WFP Access unit monitors the situation on the road at all times and liaises with the Logistics Cluster so we can inform them of any potential risks.

During the peak of the dry season how many trucks do you offload?

During the dry season the Logistics Cluster maximises the use of the roads and provides a convoy schedule for the main axis allowing organisations to plan in advance. Where road transport is possible, except for life saving emergencies, the Logistics Cluster will stand down any air service. We can offload two to three trucks per day, depending on the type of cargo and on the number cargo flights that we simultaneously coordinate.