UNITED NATIONS HUMANITARIAN RESPONSE DEPOT
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)