Logistics Support: Relief Goods

Why does OCHA stockpile relief goods?

In 1983, discussions began between the Italian Government and the Office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator (now OCHA) to establish an emergency mechanism providing quick and efficient support to disaster victims.

The result was the creation of the OCHA warehouse in Pisa, Italy. In August 2000, OCHA stocks were moved to the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) in Brindisi, southern Italy. Since then, OCHA has dispatched 117 shipments to 48 countries affected by natural disaster or conflict. Of these shipments, 65 were in response to natural disasters, while the remaining 52 were in support of conflict-affected populations. A total of 2,356 tons of relief items have been moved, worth over US$17.5 million.

Over the years, the international reaction and response to this initiative has been encouraging. Over 80 partners (including NGOs and nearly 20 governments) have co-operated in operations or provided support to the OCHA stockpiles.

The main benefit of OCHA stockpiling is the ability to send life-saving goods when a disaster strikes, without needing to conduct time-consuming market research and procurement. All goods are quality controlled and appropriately packed, ready for immediate dispatch to wherever they are needed. 

OCHA stocks are not designed to provide relief in all situations, but they can fill gaps in emergency assistance. OCHA also aims to facilitate or enhance the provision of emergency relief by other members of the international humanitarian community.

Related Documents
OCHA Relief Stocks Annual Report

Obtaining goods from OCHA

When international assistance is sought in a disaster or emergency, the Humanitarian Coordinator, the United Nations Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative, the OCHA regional/field office or the relevant clusters are the channels for a request to OCHA for goods to be dispatched.

The decision to launch an emergency transport operation is made by the Chief of the Emergency Services Branch (ESB), in cooperation with the relevant regional section of OCHA's Coordination and Response Division. Most emergency consignments are dispatched as the result of an appeal for international assistance. In this case, one or more shipments are organized in consultation with the OCHA local representative, the country's United Nations Disaster Management Team and/or other local partners, as appropriate. The cargo composition is usually based on local needs assessments, national/international response, envisaged transport means and the level of OCHA relief goods in stock.

Once the parameters of the operations have been decided, OCHA/LSU consults donors to obtain their authorization to release the goods, and to agree on freight payment and handling costs. The World Food Programme arranges transportation on behalf of OCHA.

Upon arrival in the affected country, relief consignments are usually handed over by the UNDP or local OCHA representative, on behalf of the United Nations and donors. They are given to the consignees, who are usually the national authorities and NGOs in charge of relief activities and distribution.

Donors to OCHA relief stocks may also forward a request for an operation directly to the Chief of ESB. In this case, dispatches are typically consigned to the donor’s local embassy or to any other partner designated by the donor.

Consignments are provided free of charge to the recipient countries. They are regularly recorded in OCHA's situation reports and Financial Tracking System, and in other United Nations documents.

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