‘Go ahead, taste it,’ says Doris Mauron Klopfenstein, offering me a packet of high energy biscuits.
It’s past 2.30 pm and the last solid food I’d had was at 9am. Famished, I rip open the blue and white packet and munch on one biscuit, then another, a third.
Neither too sweet nor salty, tasting a tad crunchier than digestive biscuits but without the overpowering taste of fibre, the biscuits, like its name suggests, does give an energy boost and I’m ready to tour the entire warehouse of the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot in Dubai’s Humanitarian City.
Doris, who handles the UNHRD office in Dubai, smiles when I tell her that. ‘The biscuits, manufactured from a facility in Oman, was most recently shipped to Southern Sudan to give an extra boost to the diet of the children there,’ she says.
Biscuits, of course, aren’t the only things UNHRD rushes as aid to people.
‘We have sanitation products, medical goods, supplies and protection for people working in areas where there are medical disasters, tents, blankets, even toys for children that are ready to be shipped to people in need,’ she says.
She points to a replica of a water tank that stands in one corner of the display area of her office. Nearby is a submersible pump that’s linked up to a dining table sized bank of solar panels.
‘Interesting, huh?’ she asks.
‘It’s a water purifier and dispenser,’ she says.
Powered by solar energy, the submersible pump can draw out up to 10,000 litres of water a day and store it in a tank from where it can be distributed to people via pipelines and taps.
‘This was developed by one of the 80 different partner companies that we work with and can provide potable water to a small village,’ says Doris. ‘Most recently it was sent to Sudan where it is proving a boon to people who are facing severe water scarcity.’
A solar-powered submersible pump that can draw out 10,000 litres of water a day is just one of the items UNHRD deploys, says Doris.
That in essence is the mission of the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot which has a warehouse and office in Dubai’s Humanitarian City –procuring, storing and rushing emergency supplies for the humanitarian community across the globe.
Having an office in the Dubai’s Humanitarian City is one of the best things that could have happened to aid providers, says Doris. ‘It is so strategically located which makes it easy to ship or airlift things to almost anywhere in the world. Being here is a great way to work towards one of the greatest initiatives of the government. It’s a great way to work towards sustainable living goals.’
She admits that it was the 2005 tsunami that jolted the humanitarian aid suppliers to sit up and take stock of the way they operate. ‘The intensity plus the widespread devastation that it caused made us aware of how important it was to move things smoothly across the world without duplicating efforts,’ she says.
UNHRD has over 500 different line items - from IT equipment used to support volunteers and people on the field, shelter for those who have lost their homes to even drones that can be deployed in disaster areas to help search and rescue teams.
In one area of the warehouse’s office is a display unit of a tent that can be set up in just a few minutes. Inside is a set of cooking utensils, a lamp, and in one corner, a box full of toys. ‘We have to keep everyone’s needs in mind, including children’s,’ says Doris. ‘The idea is to keep them stress free during the sensitive time after a disaster has struck.’
The UNHRD supply depot here also stocks anti-cholera kits, basic health kits that can help about 10,000 people over three months, trauma kits which can help 500 people over a shorter period of time, complementary medicines for pregnant women…
The depot is equipped with a fridge where the temperature is maintained at 3C to store certain medications and a freezer where vaccines are stored.
‘We store insulin and some vaccines in the freezer,’ says Doris.
The Dubai office, one of five sprinkled across the world, ships stuff out to over 80 countries. Since conflict escalated in Yemen two years ago, UNHRD has sent over 510 tonnes of critical relief items, equipment and medical supplies to Djibouti and Yemen. ‘This is just one of the several aid initiatives we moved,’ she says.