The continued support of logistics providers in relief efforts remains vital in what’s been described as the worst natural disaster in Pakistani history.
Described as the worst natural disaster in Pakistan history, the country’s mountainous northwest region was ravaged by monsoon rains at the end of July, with countless homes being destroyed, thousands being killed, and an estimated 20 million people impacted.
International organisations were fast in their response to the large-scale calamity, with the World Bank announcing a massive US$1 billion in interest-free funding to help Pakistan cope with the situation. In addition, there was mass unity within the global logistics industry, which offered its expertise in the transportation and warehousing of relief shipments to the South Asian country.
In particular, 3PL specialists in the Middle East have been hailed for their immediate response, with Barloworld Logistics UAE amongst the first to launch a charity campaign, which involved the collection of donations from members of the public and company employees.
“The logistics industry has traditionally played an important role in relief efforts for natural disasters around the world, so when the situation in Pakistan occurred, we wanted to contribute our assistance, especially since a number of our employees are from the country,” explains Frank Courtney, chief operating officer for Barloworld Logistics UAE.
“We asked people to donate items for a container that was shipped to Pakistan, with the costs being borne by our company. As opposed to sending cash, there is a greater chance that clothes or supplies will actually reach the people that have been impacted.”
On a personal level, the coverage of flood victims on the television and print media was a motivating factor for Courtney to push the campaign forward. “I was watching a news report, where a man was looking for his son and noticed a foot sticking out the water. He identified that as his son’s foot and since I have two children myself, I wondered how someone can deal with that,” he says.
“Your house has been washed away, you are walking through a river and discover your son’s body. How do you carry on? It was at that point that I realised we need to do something. If the contents of our container have the potential to help these people, then we’ve done a small part.”
Such emotions have been echoed by companies across the Middle East logistics industry, from small players to large-scale operators. “We sent a couple of full shipments last week. Both were twenty-foot containers packed full of clothes, blankets, tarps and tents. Given the circumstances, we see these actions as vitally important,” states Fazal Hussain, managing director of CPL Crown Logistics, who also arranged for a videographer to follow the journey of shipments, ensuring the items were delivered to people in genuine need.
Aramex also launched its own campaign in partnership with Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC), it subsidiary Emirates Petroleum Products Company (EPPCO) and Volunteers in Dubai (VID). The logistics company was able to collect donations from ENOC and EPPCO stations in the UAE, which were delivered to those affected by the floods. The initiative was part of Aramex’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme, which has previously supported the victims of Pakistan’s 2005 earthquake and more recently, the ‘Delivery Hope to Gaza’ campaign in 2008 and 2009.
After a brief assessment mission, global market-leader DHL also deployed an initial team of four logistics experts from its Middle East Disaster Response Team (DRT) to Pakistan last month. The team was able to create a provisional warehouse and helped with the logistical handling of relief goods at the military part of Islamabad airport.
The free-of-charge efforts were provided in close cooperation with the UN, in particular with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the World Food Programme (WFP). Both, incoming goods of the WFP and bilateral contributions from governments were handled by the DHL Disaster Response Team on the ground.
“The situation in Pakistan is very serious and we hope we can support the ongoing relief efforts with our disaster response teams professionally as usual,” states Frank Appel, CEO of parent company Deutsche Post DHL, who allocated a further 20 to 25 DHL employees from different business divisions to help unload pallet goods for further distribution.
The assistance of DHL and other logistics providers has been seen as essential for organisations such as the WFP to achieve its targets. “We have been sending in relief supplies through both sea and air, including mobile warehouses” explains Samir Sajet, Dubai-based aviation safety officer for the World Food Programme.
“A variety of items were needed, from food and water, to shelter and telecommunications equipment. Also, high-energy biscuits are very important and there have been a lot of requests for tarpaulins, mosquito nets, tents, blankets and hygiene kits. So we have been doing our best to get those goods in there.”
Arguably one of the most proactive humanitarian air freighters remains Maximus Air Cargo, which has historically been one of the first to lend transport assets when called upon. And when considering that leasing a freighter can run upwards of $80,000, it’s no small gesture. “But we’re simply not doing enough,” says Fathi Buhazza, CEO of Maximus Air Cargo. “I want to challenge everyone in our industry to do more.”
Buhazza says that Maximus continues to push regular flights out of Dubai and Jeddah, to Karachi and Islamabad, and as the founder of Care by Air, a non-profit initiative, Buhazza is spearheading efforts to utilise empty space on flights to transport humanitarian aid. “Now is the time for social responsibility. Take the initiative and come forward. It will be to the benefit of everyone,” he stresses. “The UAE is a place of goodness. From an organisational level, we need to be responsive when crisis strikes, implementing the same principles we do in business to humanitarian relief.”
To prove his point, Buhazza pledged three free-of-charge cargo flights during the recent UAE Telethon for Pakistan, which was conducted over three days by the Red Crescent under the directives of His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of UAE. The flights will carry approximately 150 tonnes of vital material, including tents, blankets and drinking supplies. “Maximus is pleased to make this offer – it is something we wanted to do very much and most importantly to do on behalf of the UAE,” he concludes.