The Global Logistics Cluster, led by the World Food Programme (WFP), initiated the Logistics Field-Based Preparedness Project (FBPP) in Sierra Leone in late February 2021.

The FBPP aims to enable government, national and international NGOs, UN agencies, development partners, and the private sector to have a coordinated approach towards improving local supply chain resilience, thus improving readiness to face emergencies.

This initiative is built upon localisation and skills-transfer and aims to support national responders in strengthening their capacity, as well as developing the tools and knowledge needed to take ownership of humanitarian logistics operations and reach vulnerable communities during sudden-onset disasters.

“The development and implementation of the Sierra Leone relief item pre-positioning strategy showcases what the FBPP stands for in terms of partnership, localisation, sustainable capacity strengthening, and advocacy. Thanks to the joint efforts of all those involved, the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) has successfully advocated to pre-position 5,000 household’s worth of relief items in four locations based on previous disaster response distribution needs”  – Patricia Thornhill, Logistics Preparedness Expert, WFP Sierra Leone

NDMA conference room in Freetown. Photo credit: NDMA
NDMA conference room in Freetown. Photo credit: NDMA 

The Pillar System

After a fire broke out on 24 March 2021 at Susan’s Bay in Freetown, affecting more than 7,000 people and almost 1,600 households, the NDMA activated a Pillar System which breaks down the response per area of focus, as well its Situation Room. This was the first inter-agency emergency response that the NDMA had coordinated since its establishment in November 2020. Following the emergency phase, the FBPP supported the capture of lessons learned and the NDMA coordination and definition of logistics enhancement priorities. Through the newly reformed “Logistics Pillar” coordination and working group partnership meetings, it was determined that emergency relief items should be pre-positioned close to Freetown, Kenema, Bo, and Port Loko to ensure quick access to affected communities across the country.

Real-Time Warehouse and Mobile Storage Unit (MSU) Training

The FBPP has also supported the development of a stock management and tracking system and delivered real time training to the NDMA to help it assess its inventory in its existing stores in Freetown. Storage spaces were also assessed by NDMA and Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) in Bo and Kenema using the warehouse assessment guidelines developed by the FBPP. From this, a decision was taken to enhance warehouse capacity in Kenema for the wet season by relocating one of the 37 MSUs at the Port Loko Logistics Base, established by WFP in 2014 in support of the Ebola response and handed over to NDMA in April 2021.This was conducted as a real-time capacity building activity for NDMA and RSLAF personnel, led by WFP and supported by the NDMA logistician, which included warehouse set up of relief items.

MSU assembly – real time training Kenema. Photo credit: WFP
MSU assembly – real time training Kenema. Photo credit: WFP

In addition to warehouse training, a real-time MSU training was held over a number of steps and locations. The FBPP team was brought in at each of the steps to explain the technique and suggest ways to efficiently coordinate the assembling team. The main steps included:

  • Site selection and ground preparation (Kenema, 2 September 2021)
  • MSU Dismantling (NDMA Logistics Hub, Port Loko, 9 September 2021)
  • MSU assembly and warehousing (Kenema, 16-17 September).

The real-time training was conducted as a “Training of Trainers” format with the selected personnel from four RSLAF Brigades. Manuals and safety equipment were provided to all participants along with an overall presentation of the MSU pieces and a safety briefing. The MSU training will be re-enforced using the same personnel for the transfer of another MSU from Port Loko to Bo.

Key Outcome

Thanks to training provided, the NDMA now has the knowledge and capacity to set up emergency warehousing and manage the storage and dispatch of pre-positioned relief items across Sierra Leone. This means for future emergencies, relief items can be dispatched more efficiently to affected communities, reducing the need to organise ad-hoc transport from Freetown which could cause delays in the receipt of aid. As the NDMA works towards decentralisation, this training can now equip future Provincial and District NDMA coordinators with the skills to manage the dispatch and distribution directly from the warehouses once fully established.

This strategy is the best [thing] that can happen to the NDMA at this critical stage of our development. The NDMA and four military brigades were involved in much of this training. This knowledge and infrastructure can be retained for years to come. Lt. General (Rtd.) Brima Bureh Sesay, NDMA Director-General

A NDMA  Warehouse in Macdonald, Sierra Leone. Photo Credit: WFP/Mohamed P Kamara
A NDMA  Warehouse in Macdonald, Sierra Leone. Photo Credit: WFP/Mohamed P Kamara

The real-time MSU and warehouse training performed in Sierra Leone illustrates the Logistics Cluster FBPP core intent and overarching goal: supporting local actors in sustainably strengthening their response capacity. Should an emergency arise, the NDMA will now be better equipped to address the affected population needs and save lives.