Friday - - In the UAE -

Go ahead, taste it,’ says Doris Mau­ron Klopfen­stein, of­fer­ing me a packet of high-en­ergy bis­cuits. It’s near­ing 3 in the af­ter­noon and the last solid food I’d had was at 9am. Famished, I rip open the blue and white packet and munch on one bis­cuit, then an­other and a third.

Nei­ther too sweet nor salty, a tad crunchier than di­ges­tive bis­cuits but with­out the over­pow­er­ing taste of fi­bre, the bis­cuits, like the name sug­gests, do give an en­ergy boost. I’m ready to tour the en­tire ware­house of the United Na­tions Hu­man­i­tar­ian Re­sponse De­pot in Dubai’s Hu­man­i­tar­ian City.

Doris, who han­dles the UNHRD of­fice in Dubai, smiles when I tell her that. ‘The bis­cuits, man­u­fac­tured in a fa­cil­ity in Oman, were most re­cently shipped to South Su­dan to give an ex­tra boost to the diet of the chil­dren there,’ says the Swiss na­tional who has over four years’ ex­pe­ri­ence with UNHRD alone.

Bis­cuits, of course, aren’t the only things the or­gan­i­sa­tion rushes as aid to peo­ple.

‘We have med­i­cal goods, sup­plies and pro­tec­tion for peo­ple work­ing in ar­eas where there are med­i­cal dis­as­ters, san­i­ta­tion prod­ucts, tents and blan­kets, among oth­ers,’ she says.

She points to a replica of a wa­ter tank that stands in one cor­ner of the dis­play area of her of­fice. Nearby is a sub­mersible pump that’s linked up to a bank of so­lar pan­els.

‘It’s a wa­ter pu­ri­fier and dis­penser,’ she says.

Pow­ered by so­lar en­ergy, the pump can draw out up to 10,000 litres of wa­ter a day and store it in a tank from where it can be dis­trib­uted to peo­ple via pipelines and taps.

‘This was de­vel­oped by one of the 80 dif­fer­ent part­ner com­pa­nies that we work with and can pro­vide potable wa­ter to a small vil­lage,’ says Doris. ‘Most re­cently it was sent to Su­dan where it is prov­ing to be a boon to peo­ple who are fac­ing se­vere wa­ter scarcity.’

That in essence is the mis­sion of the UNHRD – procur­ing, stor­ing and rush­ing emer­gency sup­plies for the hu­man­i­tar­ian com­mu­nity across the globe.

Doris, who has worked ex­ten­sively in South Su­dan help­ing in the de­mo­bil­i­sa­tion of child sol­diers in the civil war and rein­te­grat­ing them into so­ci­ety, says hav­ing an of­fice in Dubai’s Hu­man­i­tar­ian City is one of the best things that could have hap­pened to aid providers. ‘It is so strate­gi­cally lo­cated, which makes it easy to ship or air­lift things to almost any­where in the world. Be­ing here is a great way to work to­wards one of the great­est ini­tia­tives of the govern­ment... to­wards sus­tain­able liv­ing goals.’

Echo­ing Marie-Laure’s thoughts, Doris too says that it was the 2004 tsunami that jolted the hu­man­i­tar­ian aid sup­pli­ers to sit up and take stock of the way they op­er­ate. ‘The in­ten­sity plus the wide­spread dev­as­ta­tion that it caused made us aware of how im­por­tant it was to move things smoothly across the world with­out du­pli­cat­ing ef­forts,’ she says. UNHRD has over 500 dif­fer­ent line items – from IT equip­ment used to sup­port vol­un­teers and peo­ple on the field, shel­ter for those who have lost their homes to even drones that can be de­ployed in dis­as­ter ar­eas to help search and res­cue teams.

The sup­ply de­pot here also stocks anti-cholera kits, ba­sic health kits that can each help about 10,000 peo­ple over three months, trauma kits which can help 500 peo­ple over a shorter pe­riod of time, and medicines for preg­nant women.

The de­pot is equipped with a room where the tem­per­a­ture is main­tained at 3°C to store cer­tain med­i­ca­tions and a freezer room where cer­tain vac­cines are stored.

In one area of the ware­house’s of­fice is a dis­play unit of a tent that can be set up in just a few min­utes. In­side is a set of cook­ing uten­sils, a lamp, and in one cor­ner, a box full of toys. ‘We have to keep every­one’s needs in mind, in­clud­ing chil­dren’s,’ says Doris. ‘The idea is to keep them stress-free dur­ing the sen­si­tive time af­ter a dis­as­ter has struck.’

UNHRD has over 500 dif­fer­ent line items – from IT equip­ment used to SUP­PORT VOL­UN­TEERS on the field, shel­ter for those who have lost their homes and even DRONES

A so­lar-pow­ered sub­mersible pump that can draw out 10,000 litres of wa­ter a day is just one of the items UNHRD de­ploys, says Doris (be­low)

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