Supply Annual Report 2018
background image©️ UNICEF/UN0239516/Gilbertson VII Photo
Chapter 2

Responding to Emergencies

UNICEF on the front lines

UNICEF supply and logistics operations were essential to the organization’s humanitarian response in 2018. Goods were delivered to 53 countries and territories facing emergencies, reaching a global procurement value of $412.6 million, of which $151.3 million was locally procured.

Protracted conflict and displacement continued to affect populations across the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia, while disasters, disease outbreaks and economic instability impacted countries in these and other regions. When responding to an emergency, UNICEF works with governments, partners and suppliers to ensure that children and families receive the goods, services and support they need to survive and recover.

Each emergency is unique and requires a tailored supply and logistics response.

In Bangladesh, UNICEF’s support was adjusted over the course of the year to develop an effective supply chain and vary the types of supplies needed during the monsoon or dry seasons. In some countries affected by conflict, a minimum of services may continue to function. For example, in the Syrian Arab Republic the availability of local suppliers enabled UNICEF to procure over 50 per cent of necessary supplies from within the country itself. In Yemen, UNICEF oversaw a direct cash transfer programme to supplement the income of vulnerable families.

UNICEF emergency response requires very different approaches, even within the same region – depending on contextual characteristics such as the type of emergency, access, capacity, security and logistical complexities on the ground.


The pre-positioning of supplies (procuring and storing them in advance of an expected need or potential risk) is critical to supporting countries facing ongoing crises and at risk of future emergencies. In South Sudan, the rainy season poses additional challenges when the country’s dirt roads become almost impassable. This leaves air freight, and sometimes boats, as the only reliable means of moving supplies. Pre-positioning supplies during the dry season reduces transport costs for their uninterrupted delivery to children affected by conflict and displacement. By pre-positioning food, medicines and other critical supplies in South Sudan, UNICEF saved $12 million between 2016 and 2018. These savings were achieved by conducting detailed analysis, the earliest possible planning and the timely procurement of supplies in anticipation of seasonal challenges to road travel.


  • 19%
  • 17%
    Nutrition supplies
  • 6%
    Medical kits
  • 4%
    Clothing and footwear
  • 18%
    Water & sanitation supplies
  • 8%
    Education supplies
  • 6%
  • 22%
    All other supplies

UNICEF supply response in emergencies in 2018

In 2018, these emergencies required UNICEF-wide mobilization of a supply response beyond in-country capacity. This map shows the three largest commodity groups by value procured for each emergency, demonstrating how different contexts required different responses. The total procurement value includes all commodity groups and services. On the subsequent pages, a snapshot of the needs and the UNICEF supply response is described for each emergency.

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Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela migration crisis
Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
South Sudan
Syrian Arab Republic and the sub-region
Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia

Syrian Arab Republic: Supporting local markets during conflict

With the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic continuing into its eighth year, UNICEF has developed sustainable solutions to deliver supplies to children by working with local businesses that continue to operate.

In 2014, UNICEF in the Syrian Arab Republic began looking for more local solutions to its emergency procurement needs. At the time, most emergency supplies were coming in through neighbouring countries such as Jordan and Lebanon. The cost of importing products was increasing, as were the lead times for delivery, with goods sometimes delayed in customs.

Although everyday life had been severely affected by the war, many companies were still in business, specializing in areas such as textiles and food processing – sectors the country has long been strong in – and which were also directly relevant to UNICEF’s humanitarian goals. Supply staff started to consider small-scale local procurement of winter clothes and hygiene products, and this ultimately grew into more diverse commodities.

A new approach to procurement

Market research conducted within the country led to the updating of a database of qualified local suppliers. Businesses were identified which could deliver in the quantities and quality required.

The move towards local procurement quickly transformed the supply chain. Since 2015, over 50 per cent of UNICEF’s total procurement for the country has been consistently local. The items concerned include essentials such as water, sanitation and health supplies, hygiene kits, and education supplies such as school bags. For the 2018–2019 winter season, warm clothes were procured from five local companies and distributed throughout the country, to reach more than half a million children.

UNICEF is now delivering supplies to vulnerable children more than twice as quickly as before the shift to increased local procurement. Moreover, the suitability of the supplies has been strengthened. For example, the specifications for winterization and hygiene kits were adjusted to better meet local needs and preferences.

Through targeted sessions with the smaller local businesses on procurement procedures and quality requirements, UNICEF has strengthened the smaller enterprises’ ability to compete with larger textile companies and become approved suppliers.

Local procurement also strengthens long-term development for communities. Support for the economic activity of small-scale suppliers through the conflict will help in the recovery of local communities once the conflict is over.



$40.1 million


$48 million

eVoucher programme contributes to local procurement

A new eVoucher scheme using electronic smart cards topped up with credit is also supporting local procurement. The programme gives parents the freedom to choose what products to buy for their children from a preselected list, so they can purchase shoes and clothes in the correct sizes and with choice of colour and style. In Aleppo, for example, 24 shops have been pre-approved for the programme. This is not only empowering for children and their families but also sustains local suppliers by supporting demand. In 2018 the project reached 28,000 children and is set to expand further in 2019.

Yemen: Implementing a cash transfer project

UNICEF has established a cash transfer project in Yemen to reach nearly one third of the population. The project complements the direct delivery of supplies and empowers recipients to make purchasing decisions based on their own needs.

The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is affecting 22 million people, half of them children. More than two million people are internally displaced, and many businesses and Government offices have closed. More than one million public sector employees are without work or income. Prices for imported goods have become prohibitively high and the local currency, the rial, has dropped to one quarter of its pre-conflict value. Still, local markets for basic necessities have continued to function to varying extents, especially in safer parts of the country.

In addition to procuring and delivering vaccines and other medical, health and nutrition supplies, UNICEF has also implemented a cash transfer project to balance some of the challenges in delivering aid, such as procurement, importation and logistics. The cash transfers are unconditional, meaning that families can use them as they choose. Families can buy the type of food, clothes and medicine they need, or pay school fees for their children. Some have invested in goods needed to establish small businesses such as bread making or sewing.

The programme is funded by the World Bank’s International Development Association and co-financed by the Government of the United States, with UNICEF as the executing agency. In 2018 the project successfully delivered two disbursement cycles, benefiting more than 1.4 million families – nearly 9 million Yemenis. Each household received an average of 15,000 rials per disbursement.

The recipients of the cash are the people who were previously served by the Yemen Social Welfare Fund. The project helps to preserve the country’s own social protection system and support families who were already identified as extremely vulnerable before the conflict. It thus helps maintain a base support system to rebuild from when the conflict ends.

The design of the project identified and managed risks before and throughout the implementation. Included in the design were measures to ensure that participants’ safety and data would be secured. Measures were taken to prevent risk and detect fraud, and to ensure the safety of those delivering the cash. Systems were also put in place to address grievances and deal with allegations of fraud.

UNICEF’s expertise in sourcing, vetting and contracting local service providers led to the contracting of two commercial banks which rely on their local affiliates – including bank branches, local shops and mobile teams – to disburse the cash. They operate more than 1,000 payment sites across the country. To enable the service providers and participants to access these sites during ongoing conflict, UNICEF relies on local contractors to inform communities of the project, liaise with authorities and help ensure smooth implementation locally.

Monitoring has consistently shown that families spend the cash quickly to address immediate needs. Nine out of ten purchased food, one in four used the cash to cover the cost of medical consultations and medicines, and one in five paid back debts.

In Yemen, giving the most vulnerable children and their families unconditional access to cash is a direct and effective way of helping them to subsist during the conflict. It also contributes to sustaining local markets, which will be key to rebuilding the society in the future.

Bangladesh: Establishing a rapid supply and logistics system

In response to a massive displacement of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh in 2017–2018, UNICEF quickly set up an emergency logistics and supply chain to ensure that supplies reached children and their families.

When thousands of people began crossing the border from Myanmar daily, UNICEF responded rapidly to set up a system to deliver supplies to children and their families in the affected areas.

A large warehouse was needed to receive the hundreds of tonnes of aid arriving by sea and air. There, the supplies could be divided into smaller loads for onward distribution. A warehouse facility was identified in Chittagong – the nearest large Bangladeshi city, five hours’ drive from the refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar. A wide range of vehicles were used, including tuk-tuks, the three-wheeled rickshaws commonly driven throughout Asia.

A crucial element of the operation’s success was close coordination with the Government of Bangladesh to meet the specific needs of vulnerable children. For example, diseases can spread rapidly in the confines of a crowded refugee camp. To address the pressing emergency in the camps, the Government exceptionally reallocated vaccines from its routine immunization programmes. UNICEF then took action to replenish this stock with funding from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, quickly delivering extra vaccines so that Bangladesh’s routine immunization programme would not be disrupted.

In addition to the 9.1 million vaccines and many other life-saving products, in 2018, UNICEF procured 862,700 education kits, including School-in-a-box kits to ensure children’s continued access to learning. By the end of the year, more than 70 per cent of the children in the camps were regularly attending classes. The types of supplies distributed also depended on changing conditions on the ground. For instance, during the winter months, UNICEF distributed winter clothing and blankets to children and their mothers.

Towards the end of 2018 annual heavy monsoon rains were expected to cause transport delays as roads became impassable or damaged. Flooding would also increase the risk of the spread of waterborne bacteria and diseases. In anticipation of this, a wide range of extra items were pre-positioned in the local warehouse – such as water purification tablets, hygiene kits, school equipment and nutrition supplies.

Through pre-positioning, rapid response and a range of proactive interventions, a functional and efficient supply and logistics system was established and maintained. UNICEF was thus able to ensure that refugee children and families received the supplies they needed. As examples, by the end of 2018, over 380,000 Rohingya refugees were provided with improved access to safe drinking water and more than 1.2 million received oral cholera vaccine.


  • 9.1mln
    doses of vaccines
  • 17.9mln
    water purification tablets to treat
  • 89.6mln
    litres of water
  • 862.7k
    education kits
  • 137
    metric tonnes of
    ready-to-use therapeutic food
  • 74.5k
    hygiene kits