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Delivering lifesaving supplies to countries facing humanitarian crisis

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humanitarian crisis

Amidst the Ukrainian humanitarian crisis, trucks have been delivering humanitarian aid from Poland to Ukraine Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto


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  • The Logistics Emergency Team (LET) has been instrumental in responding to global emergencies including delivering aid and supplies to Ukraine facing an humanitarian crisis.
  • The LET is supporting the UN’s Global Logistics Cluster to ensure humanitarian supplies reach communities in need.
  • Warehousing, customs clearance and transport routing are some of the services provided by the LET on the ground in Ukraine, Poland and surrounding areas.

The impact of providing logistics support during the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.

The human impact of the war in Ukraine has been vast. The UN declared it the largest refugee crisis since World War II, with 13 million people being forced to seek sanctuary elsewhere – about half of those have been displaced in Ukraine while the rest have been taken in by other European countries.

When news broke that Russia had invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022, countries across Europe scrambled to help. Responding to the humanitarian crisis, the World Economic Forum-initiated Logistics Emergency Team (LET) – a coalition of four leading global logistics companies (Agility, A.P. Moller-Maersk, DP World and UPS) – worked with the United Nations to bring lifesaving supplies to the country.


With bases set up in Poland, Romania and Hungary, LET companies provided warehouse space and ground transportation routes to aid in the operation. Thanks to their existing presence in the region, the companies were able to provide expert local knowledge that helped streamline and organise the effort to distribute supplies to affected areas.

  • DP World established a rail link out of Ukraine to the DP World Constanta port in Romania to alleviate pressure on truck drivers. Five trains ran weekly, travelling in both directions, each carrying 50 containers.
  • UPS’s financial contribution of $2 million towards Ukraine relief was partially distributed among UN aid agencies, and $132,000 funded an ambulance for a hospital in Przemyśl along the Poland-Ukraine border, which treats refugees in the area. UPS Europe also established a Customs Help Desk and assisted with translating Ukrainian government requirements and shipping paperwork, as well as providing logistical support. Volunteers from UPS stationed in cities around Europe assisted at Salvation Army-run donation centres and helped transport those donations to Poland and Romania.
  • Customs clearance and transportation routing were also provided by the LET, and were a key facilitator of a humanitarian supply chain along the Poland-Ukraine border.
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Support from the supply chain sector including the LET partners amongst others helped UNICEF to quickly scale up operations in Ukraine. This enabled the delivery of relief supplies including medical kits, children's clothing and generators aiding vulnerable and displaced children and their families.

These supplies have enabled UNICEF to:

  • Provide access to primary health care in UNICEF-supported facilities and through mobile teams to more than 4.8 million children and women.
  • Enable access to safe water to over 4.2 million people living in areas where networks have been damaged or destroyed.
  • Reach over 2.6 million children and caregivers with mental health and psychosocial support.

Delivering COVID-19 vaccines worldwide as supply chains disrupted.

The vital mobilization of the LET comes just two years after the Forum participated in a similar initiative to supply COVID-19 vaccines globally through COVAX. Co-led with the World Health Organization (WHO), COVAX encompassed Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations, alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.

All sectors expected the COVID-19 vaccine rollout to be a highly complex task, especially as it urgently needed to reach billions of people around the world on a scale never seen before in modern logistics. The biggest challenge, though, was ensuring that everyone in every corner of the world was vaccinated. This called for a multi-stakeholder approach to ensure equity in access to vaccines.

In December 2020, the World Economic Forum and UNICEF developed a charter with leading shipping, airline and logistics companies from the Forum’s Supply Chain and Transport Industry Action Group to support the inclusive, safe distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Companies committed to support COVAX with planning, preparedness, and prioritized transportation of COVID-19 vaccines and supplies. In one year, this monumental, collective effort has contributed to COVAX delivering more than 1 billion vaccines to vulnerable communities primarily in low- and middle-income countries.

What’s the challenge delivering lifesaving supplies during an humanitarian crisis?

Global supply chains faced historic levels of disruption during COVID-19, and had only just begun to recover when the Russian invasion of Ukraine happened. Ensuring humanitarian supplies and aid could enter the country quickly required a similar approach to COVAX, albeit on a smaller scale.

Local knowledge was vital in this operation to navigate customs requirements and border checks and coordinate with neighbouring countries. Some usual transportation routes may have been made inaccessible by the war, so experience of logistics and planning was needed. Grassroots humanitarian efforts also had to be considered and collaborated with to ensure all supplies reached the right places.

Our approach to providing efficient disaster relief supplies.

Responding to war and humanitarian crisis requires innovative and bold collective action from organizations, governments and industries.

First facilitated by the Forum in 2005, the LET unites the capacity and resources of the logistics industry with the expertise and experience of the humanitarian community to provide more effective and efficient disaster relief. The companies also supply pro bono assets and services and deploy logistics experts to join the Logistics Cluster's staff for the disaster response operations.

The companies are engaging for the long haul, with many committing to critically important long-term partnerships.

  • As well as its role in the LET, Agility raised funds directly for the UNHCR Ukrainian refugee response, and donated the transportation of three pallets of medical supplies from the US to Poland.
  • UPS, through The UPS Foundation, contributed $2 million in support of Ukraine. The donation was distributed through multiple partner charities.

How can you get involved?

The Logistics Emergency Team is the first partnership of its kind, formalising a multi-stakeholder cooperation between the private and public sector. It is an initiative of the Forum’s Centre for Regions, Trade and Geopolitics.

Companies are invited to join the Platform to share their expertise, participate in projects and help accelerate development of more sustainable, inclusive and resilient transport and supply systems.

For more information, please contact us.

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Related topics:
Forum InstitutionalSupply Chains and TransportationResilience, Peace and SecurityHealth and Healthcare SystemsGlobal Cooperation
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AgilityA.P. Møller-MaerskDHL GroupDP WorldPort of Antwerp-BrugesUnited Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)UPS
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