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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Dubai aid data bank to help alleviate suffering in starving, war torn nations

A busy year for Dubai International Humanitarian City has seen important changes to its supply chain for aid agencies

The liberation of Mosul in Iraq was one of many events in 2017 to trigger an aid crisis that saw warehouses at Dubai International Humanitarian City almost empty overnight.

Rohingya refugees pouring into Bangladesh following persecution for their religious beliefs in Myanmar was another global crisis that became reliant on the global positioning of IHC.

The hub of warehouses filled with emergency shelters, food, clothes and medical supplies has had a busy 2017 as global crisis lurched from one to another.

A new data bank has been developed in that time to share aid information between governments and agencies to reduce waste, and ensure aid is delivered where it is needed most.

“A data bank was needed as there was no common platform from where we could take information to position our stocks worldwide,” said Giuseppe Saba, Chief Executive Officer of International Humanitarian City.

“Humanitarian aid is spread around the world, but If a country is affected by floods, earthquake or conflict we need to know what aid is immediately available.

“We have created a common platform that allows humanitarian organisations to include this information.”

Each item of aid is coded - so that unique code can be tracked by customs and IHC to locate where that aid is located geographically.

This allows the humanitarian community to share information with the affected government in the country so they can prepare to receive supplies, making the system more efficient.

It will also identify what needs to be prioritised, either sanitation, shelter or food and medicine for example so it becomes more cost effective.

“For aid agencies to input this data themselves is a full time job, so in Dubai we have had a different idea, as whatever is imported or exported must pass through customs,” Mr Saba said.

“We are now contacting other humanitarian aid suppliers and stockpiles to share these codes so we can see on a dashboard exactly what is available at any given time.”

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The Emirates Red Crescent has 11 collection points in the UAE to collect donations of clothes, toys and supplies that it has been delivering to displaced people in Syria, Jordan and Yemen.

The items are then sorted into gender and age specific containers before being repackaged and distributed from DIHC.

It is one of several aid agencies to use vast warehouses, free of charge, where they can store relief packs ready to be dispatched when required.

“We have 3,500 containers of non-food items, such as tents and shelter, to help up to 5,000 families. From here we can help people affected by natural disaster within 24 hours,” said Agali Salac, global fleet lead at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Tents made in Pakistan can offer shelter for a family of five, and cost about US$300. Smaller tents to provide immediate shelter are purchased for just $25.

Technology such as portable and compact satellite dishes and receivers is connecting remote aid posts, and track aid workers to help keep them safe.

In areas without running water or wells, Veragon condenser units can extract drinking water from the atmosphere.

Nevien Attalia is an aid co-ordinator with the World Health Organisation, helping with the logistical operation of ensuring supplies get to where they are needed most.

“We can offer these Interagency Emergency Health Kits that can provide supplies for 100 medical operations and up to 10 days of patient care,” she said.

“Other trauma kits costing about $4,000 can offer a month of care for up to 100 patients.

“Each of these items has a validity and expiry date so we know when it can be used. Connected warehouses keep the stock at a stable temperature, and we can monitor this at all times.

“This is very important for vaccines and insulin, for example.”

Princess Haya bint Al Hussain, wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, donated Dh1.4m to support the provision of core-relief items and temporary shelters for more than 13,500 displaced Rohingya in Bangladesh. That aid was also shipped from DIHC in September.

Speaking at a board meeting, Princess Haya commended the work of the humanitarian hub.

“It really is a statement that is heartfelt that we have a community here that can facilitate our efforts and hard work, so it is a huge thank you,” she said.