An emergency strikes. Temporary offices and storage space need to be put up. Basecamps for humanitarian workers need to be set up. Hundreds of tonnes of relief items need to be quickly unloaded and moved on to strategic locations. And there need to be trained people on the ground who know how to safely and effectively complete these tasks.
The UNHRD Rapid Response Team (RRT) is a roster of highly trained staff from a number of organizations who can be deployed in the first days of a disaster. The roster is made up of people with varying expertise, such as equipment and electrical installation, cargo handling, or warehouse management, so that a wide range of roles can be filled on short notice.The roster includes trained UNHRD staff and is also fed by the World Food Programme’s ALITE (Augmented Logistics Intervention Team for Emergencies) team, who work as gatekeepers for the Standby Partnership programme. This is comprised of 22 organizations that have their own rosters of trained technical and humanitarian personnel who can fill gaps in surge capacity.
RRT in Action
After the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Ecuador on 16 April, the country’s government and the humanitarian community stepped up to mitigate the damage and support the tens of thousands in need of assistance.
Two members of the RRT roster, Giovanni Chiego from UNHRD and Mathias Hediger from the Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency (SDC) emergency roster, were going about their usual work when they each received the call that they were needed for the RRT in Ecuador. By 23 April, they were in Quito and immediately on the move to Esmeraldas and Manabi to identify space for a logistics staging area to host interagency support work. A few days later they were erecting the MSUs that would make up the base. Much of this work is done using what resources and equipment are at hand and the team has to be agile and creative to get their work done in these conditions.
Working to Match RRT Need and Capacity
The tasks of RRT members change depending on the nature of each emergency, so team members can be involved in supply chain management, cargo receipt, equipment handling, administrative support, base camp organization, and many other tasks that contribute to the efficient functioning of a humanitarian response. They also work with local support workers to transfer knowledge and build capacity, so that the response and rebuild efforts can become nationally sustainable as soon as possible.
UNHRD held an intensive RRT training in late 2015 to train 29 people from five continents who have subsequently been added to the RRT roster . UNHRD, through its RRT initiative, is constantly working to enhance the scale, expertise and agility of its roster, and it is hoped that further RRT trainings will be held across the Network in the coming year.