UNDP and DHL Prepare Airport Staff for Disaster Relief Logistics
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Deutsche Post DHL, in partnership with the Ministry of Disaster Management and the Ministry of Civil Aviation, conducted a disaster preparedness initiative ‘Get Airports Ready for Disaster’ (GARD) workshop in Katunayake, Colombo from the 2nd to the 5th of December 2014. The four-day workshop, conducted both at the Airport Gateway Hotel and the Bandaranaike International Airport, provided training to a mixed group of 34 persons from the Disaster Management Center, Ministry of Disaster Management and Ministry of Civil Aviation, the Sri Lanka Air force, the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), non-governmental organizations and UN agencies to effectively deliver and support vital relief operations in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
The GARD training, which was the first such workshop held in Colombo to prepare airport personnel for post-disaster logistics situations, was extremely timely as Sri Lanka prepares to mark 10 years since the tsunami of 2004 which claimed the lives of atleast 30,000 people in Sri Lanka and disrupted the livelihood of thousands more.
According to the Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management, Ms. S. M. Mohamed, “We consider GARD to be an essential part of improved disaster preparedness at a national level. GARD will have special significance for Sri Lanka being an island country, which depends heavily on airports to get required external assistance and inputs in the event of a national disaster”
Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Dr. T.R.C. Ruberu added, “When disasters strike airports are a vital point in disaster management and recovery. Preparedness of airports to face national disasters will enable delivery of rapid and effective response and build capacity of the nation to be more resilient in the face of crises. We appreciate DHL-UNDP collaboration, which provides an excellent opportunity for Sri Lanka to learn from previous GARD experiences in other countries.”
Launched in 2009, the GARD program was co-developed by Deutsche Post DHL and UNDP with the objective of preparing airports in disaster-prone areas to respond quickly and effectively to the challenges of disaster relief logistics.
The Director of Humanitarian Affairs for DHL, Chris Weeks, stated “Over the years we have conducted numerous disaster relief management exercises and have come to understand that efficient airport logistics are critical to getting aid to the people who need it. Airports can quickly become overwhelmed with the large volume of incoming relief supplies, and this can delay – or even stop – the onward transport of lifesaving supplies. The GARD initiative is our way of being able to pass on our logistics expertise to local communities so they may be able to operate swiftly despite the high-pressure challenges they may face in times of disaster”.
Participants at the workshop received training on GARD Methodology, airport assessment and the formulation of an action plan, through a mix of classroom elements and on-site assessment work from the GARD trainers, who are DHL experts in this field who conducted the training on a pro-bono basis.
"GARD will be an important contribution to the Sri Lanka Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme which is the national disaster risk management strategy of Sri Lanka. GARD is very much in line with UNDP’s mandate in countries to support development through technical support and capacity enhancement. It is a crucial step forward in disaster preparedness measures and pre-disaster recovery planning" UNDP Deputy Country Director, Lovita Ramgutee said.
The Airport Safety Manager of the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), Mr. Dhammika Wijesuriya, who was a participant at the programme stated, “We are acutely aware of the significance of this training for Sri Lanka as it marks the 10th anniversary of the devastating 2004 Tsunami later this month. Disaster risk management has been a strong focus among key stakeholders of this community and a workshop of this nature offers an ideal foundation for us to boost disaster response capacity and devise practical contingency plans at BIA, Sri Lanka’s main airport. By utilizing the professional training received at the GARD workshop we will definitely be able to enhance the capacity of the airport and equip its staff to take the right approach in times of a disaster”