Fritz Institute’s interest in warehousing practices led us to tour CARE’s supply warehouses. We visited the charred remains of a long-time CARE warehouse that was destroyed during the conflict. We also saw the newer facilities that were operational, well maintained and operated efficiently.
Today we visited the United Nations offices at the Canal Hotel. UN personnel are primarily confined to this hotel. We were briefed by Torben Due, WFP’s country director for Iraq. He described what is the biggest humanitarian food operation to-date. This 2003 Iraq relief operation has involved the most food brought to any single location in the history of humanitarian aid. WFP brought in one million metric tons of food in June alone. Daily deliveries of 35,000 metric tons are distributed through five supply corridors supplying 18 governorates (regional distribution centers). This volume is unheard of in the commercial sector.
This operation is based on the existing Ministry of Trade’s infrastructure from the "Oil for Food" program. Considered by many as the best food distribution system in the world, 80% of Iraq’s population already has ration cards for receiving and tracking food receipt.
The post-war food supply is now run by WFP, which distributes mostly grain: rice, wheat, flour, etc., to the Iraqi people. Few, if any, have access to milk, eggs and produce, as there is no money to buy fresh produce with much of the population unemployed.
The logistics operations here are multi-faceted. They have most basic logistics resources here with the notable exception of adequate communications capabilities. Every distribution means is used, be it land or sea. Many of the relief supplies come by land from Jordan and Kuwait.
Security threats pose a huge problem for getting food and supplies to the people of Iraq.
With the infrastructure broken, people with ordinary sicknesses and chronic problems simply do not get the necessary attention or resources. This makes Iraq’s needs opportune for private sector donations. Private sector expertise and appropriate medicines and supplies are needed here. Much of the expertise is available within the country by local people. The supplies and equipment are not.
We then attended a US military briefing for the humanitarian community. It was held at the Hussein palace that is housing US government officials in charge of the Iraqi government transition. Here, US officials updated NGO and UN representatives about the information and technical support that the US Army is trying to make available to them.
When we return to our hotel, this marks the third day of our visit that the electricity has been out. While CARE’s office and hotel had their own emergency generators, Iraqi civilians were spending their days in the oppressive heat and darkness.