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Practice makes perfect: how the Federal Agency for Technical Relief is preparing humanitarian aid workers for their deployments

On the ground, the receiving team rushes to the landing site and secures the delivery.

On the ground, the receiving team rushes to the landing site and secures the delivery. , © Auswärtiges Amt/E. Altmann

02.11.2017 - Article

Humanitarian assistance is only successful when it gets to where it is most urgently needed. During joint training sessions, employees from the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) and aid organisations learn how to cooperate effectively prior to their deployments.

A helicopter draws nearer, its rotor blades thundering away. A net containing food aid packages and other urgently needed relief aid is suspended from the open loading hatch. On the ground, the receiving team rushes to the landing site and secures the delivery. Crouched over a detailed map, a second group is discussing the further distribution of the relief aid. Tukastan, a mountainous coastal country, has been wracked by political unrest for ten years. Following an earthquake in the north of the country, large parts of the population are now in need of aid.

Fortunately, this is a fictional scenario in a country that doesn’t exist. The supposed earthquake victims are being played by extras. Experts from the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) have planned this joint exercise by the United Nations and countless aid organisations down to the last detail. More than 200 people are practising how to coordinate international humanitarian aid operations as part of this major exercise taking place over several days.


Coordination behind the scenes – getting the logistics right


Consulting a map in order to plan the further distribution of relief aid
Consulting a map in order to plan the further distribution of relief aid © Auswärtiges Amt/E. Altmann

It is important to get the logistics right so that aid reaches the people who need it in emergency situations. Both relief aid and aid workers often have to go a long way before getting to where they are required. The infrastructure in crisis regions is only rudimentary for the most part – roads and airports are destroyed or overloaded and mobile phone networks are out of action. Experienced experts from the field of logistics and telecommunications have therefore long been a standard feature of aid projects in most organisations.

At this joint multi day training session at the Federal Agency for Technical Relief school in Neuhausen near Stuttgart, the very first of its kind, humanitarian aid workers from the field of logistics and telecommunications now have the opportunity to run through procedures in practical exercises and simulations. What is the best way to load (and unload) helicopters carrying relief aid? How do aid workers from different organisations coordinate their efforts on the ground? This is all practical knowledge that is immensely important in emergency Responses.


Cooperation among equals: the World Food Programme and the Federal Agency for Technical Relief as partners


A net containing food aid packages and other relief aid is suspended from the loading hatch
A net containing food aid packages and other relief aid is suspended from the loading hatch © Auswärtiges Amt/E. Altmann

The training builds on experiences garnered in recent years. This is the first time that the logistics and telecommunications teams coordinated by the World Food Programme are holding their courses jointly, thereby helping to make a real difference through improved coordination on the ground.

The World Food Programme is one of the biggest recipients of German aid payments – the Federal Foreign Office has supported projects of the World Food Programme to the tune of around 560 million euros in this year alone. The focus of these measures is on Syria and neighbouring countries, as well as on countries in Africa that are threatened by acute famines. By making food and other aid relief directly available, the World Food Programme is playing a major role in efforts to fight hunger and malnutrition in crisis regions.

The Federal Agency for Technical Relief contributes important expertise and knowledge to the field of humanitarian assistance that all partners stand to benefit from. For many years, the Federal Foreign Office has supported the Federal Agency for Technical Relief’s aid interventions in acute crises – such as in the Philippines (following typhoon Haiyan) and in Nepal (in the wake of the earthquake in 2015). Following the recent earthquake in Mexico, Federal Agency for Technical Relief workers were likewise rapidly deployed in the region. The Federal Agency for Technical Relief and the Federal Foreign Office also cooperate closely in the implementation of international courses for aid organisations – such as here in the logistics and telecommunications field. This helps World Food Programme and UNHCR staff to be even better prepared for their deployment in humanitarian crises.


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