Needless to say, Somalia is a very complex operation. In March these complexities increased significantly: unprecedented heavy rains caused devasting flooding, the country experienced the worst Desert Locust upsurge in 25 years and cases of COVID-19 began to soar. All this led to the situation being coined a ‘triple threat’ emergency.
To support the humanitarian community in reaching those affected by these emergencies the Logistics Cluster was reactivated in Somalia in April. Due to the urgency of the needs, and as many of the roads had been rendered impassable by the floods, air transportation was quickly identified as the most viable means of getting relief supplies to vulnerable populations.
Ali is the main man when it comes to coordinating the Logistics Cluster-facilitated airlifts on behalf of partners to locations across the country. Whether it’s flying medical items and response teams to health centres in hard-to-reach locations, or refugee housing units and sandbags to flood-affected populations, having someone who’s able to coordinate all this action efficiently and effectively is key to making it all happen.
Life on the runway is never easy: working in the baking sun, dealing with last minute schedule changes as well as the daily pressure of coordinating both passengers and critical cargo to ensure that operations run smoothly.
But Ali is clearly in his element and never stops smiling – or delivering!
My sincere advice to anyone thinking of working in the humanitarian aid sector is to go for it!
Have you always worked in Logistics? Please tell us a bit about your career so far.
I joined WFP in July 2007 as an ICT Assistant based in Mogadishu, Somalia. After two years I was promoted to Senior Logistics Assistant in July 2009 - a field that I was always interested in. And ever since I have been working in Logistics in a variety of roles throughout Somalia. I’m now currently a Logistics Officer based in the Country Office, in Mogadishu.
World Humanitarian Day is coming up on 19th August. If someone was thinking about working in the humanitarian aid sector, what advice would you give them?
My sincere advice to anyone thinking of working in the humanitarian aid sector is to go for it! It’s an area that needs as many strong and competent people as possible to make positive changes to our world. Anyone looking to become a humanitarian worker should be ready to rise to challenges and be committed to achieving the goals of his/her team. This is a field for a dedicated person who wishes to grow personally and professionally.
Ali, on the right, checking relief items in Beletwyne — one of the worst flood-affected areas of Somalia.
This is your first role with the Logistics Cluster – how does the day-to-day differ from your previous role in the WFP Somalia operation?
Yes, this is my first role with the Logistics Cluster. In some ways there are many similarities – however there are also some stark differences. During my first few days on the job, I found it challenging due to the amount of constant communication and coordination the role requires - but within a week I found myself feeling confident in my abilities. The inter-agency focus was new to me - closely following up with partners to ensure the timely deliveries of their cargo to the airport warehouse or directly to the airside/ramp, setting firm plans with the air service providers – both UNHAS and commercial flights - keeping deadlines and ensuring the smooth running of operations is no easy feat. But it’s exciting - I was fully engaged with the day to day activities and things were moving with high momentum. And I also have a great team supporting me in Mogadishu and Nairobi.
We are here to support the wider humanitarian response and need to be organised and punctual yet flexible in order to be as effective and efficient as possible.
Tell us about some of the challenges you face in your day-to-day work.
Sometimes – due to a range of reasons – partners may not be able to deliver their cargo on time to the plane we have organised, or sometimes even passengers don’t show up which can cause large delays. In these circumstances we need to think on our feet – it forces us to provide additional resources to them and support further in order to meet the deadlines. There can also be delays in the clearances for us to be able to land at minor airports in the remotest parts of Somalia. And sometimes there are discrepancies between the cargo we expect to receive on behalf of partners and what shows up. But it’s all an adventure – and it certainly means that no two days are ever the same!
Do you have any tips for someone joining the Logistics Cluster for the first time and collaborating with partners?
Yes - my humble advice to anyone willing to join the Logistics Cluster is to embrace their service mindset. We are here to support the wider humanitarian response and need to be organised and punctual yet flexible in order to be as effective and efficient as possible. For me, patience is key: communicate to partners well in advance, move with a firm plan as much as possible and ensure you’re leading the coordinating of the operation to keep it under control. Be strong and believe in yourself. We are all responding together and that is what makes the difference.
To learn more about the Logistics Cluster operation in Somalia, visit our dedicated page here.