The war in Ukraine has led to the fastest-growing humanitarian crisis since World War II. At least 13 million people have been forced to flee their homes, and more than 15.7 million need urgent assistance and protection.
The war in #Ukraine has caused the fastest forced population movement since the Second World War. Nearly 1/3 of Ukrainians have now fled their homes.
— UN Development (@UNDP) June 2, 2022
It has also led to an extraordinary mobilization of the private sector, which contributed more than US$1.4 billion to the humanitarian response. This unprecedented show of solidarity demonstrates what can be achieved when businesses work hand-in-hand with the humanitarian community.
In emergencies, cash donations are best, because in-kind donations often mean piles of clothes and other items that cause a logistical headache and may not be related to context-specific priorities and needs. However, in some situations, businesses with unique skills can provide in-kind support that contributes to a more efficient and effective humanitarian response. emergencies
The power of logistics
The invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation triggered an unprecedented humanitarian mobilization. United Nations (UN) agencies and international and local humanitarian partners are providing urgent relief to affected people: food, shelter, water, medical treatment, psychosocial support, cash assistance and more.
Millions of lives destroyed.
— UN Humanitarian (@UNOCHA) June 3, 2022
Imagine a logistics company used to moving high volumes of goods between countries. They could deftly navigate red tape that would leave others reeling, and open warehouses in key locations in record time, making the storage and processing of goods – or the conversion of big spaces into temporary shelter for those in need – feasible and safe.
That’s exactly the kind of thing Kuehne+Nagel (K+N), one of the world’s leading logistics companies, does. Their Emergency & Relief Logistics team in Copenhagen has decades of experience in coordinating humanitarian projects around the world. They have strategically located storage and warehouse facilities and local networks in or near regions with recurring natural hazards (e.g., typhoons) or a predisposition to famine, diseases or war.
In the unanticipated case of the Ukraine crisis, the team mobilized the first critical aid missions in a matter of hours. They secured charter flights – filled with blankets, emergency and reproductive health kits, and ambulances – from warehouses in UAE and Pakistan to Europe; and in Hungary, they erected two temporary warehouses near the Debrecen airport for the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Kuehne+Nagel's #Emergency & Relief logistics team chartered a Ukrainian #Antonov An-124 to bring 111 tonnes of goods from @UNICEF to #Ukraine: https://t.co/bMsrCdYk61 #Ukrainesupport #emergencyresponse #standwithukraine pic.twitter.com/7aVhQmI0Yr
— Kuehne+Nagel (@Kuehne_Nagel) March 30, 2022
K+N expertly navigate complex customs processes and trade regulations to ensure smooth border crossings; there’s no time to lose when lives are at stake. That’s when logistics becomes really critical.
Enabling and tracking private sector contributions: Zooming out from impact to the big picture
When a company such as K+N offers support, it often collaborates with multiple partners. In the context of the war in Ukraine, they offered in-kind support to myriad entities, ranging from local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to various UN agencies and even private actors donating supplies for the conflict. To aid Ukraine, K+N pledged to donate 10 million Swiss francs worth of logistic services.
Each organization reports on their activities and the support received. But who can tell the whole story, from specific and impactful interventions to the big picture?
The Connecting Business initiative (CBi), a joint effort supported by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), developed a Ukraine Private Sector Donations Tracker documenting donations, from pledges to paid-out amounts.
Businesses big and small stepped up, taking to social media to pledge record-breaking contributions. CBi estimates over US$ 1.4 billion in cash and in-kind contributions to various UN agencies and humanitarian organizations have been pledged. So far, over US$ 300 million have been paid.
A collaborative and transparent approach to business engagement in humanitarian assistance in Ukraine and beyond
While UN agencies and NGOs play a crucial role in assessing needs and coordinating activities on the ground, the private sector – with its flexibility, financial and logistic capacity, and specific skills – can offer invaluable support.
In recognition of this reality, OCHA has put together a Business Guide to provide guidance to the private sector on how best to help in the context of the Ukraine crisis.
Imagine what we could achieve if businesses mobilized the same kind of support as for Ukraine to address humanitarian crises in Yemen, the Sahel or Syria.
Related Articles: ‘In it Together: More Humanitarian Aid for Ukraine | Engaging the Private Sector to Achieve the SDGs
K+N professional services have proven indispensable in numerous crises. Delivering aid after the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010 which destroyed vertically all infrastructure, supplying water amid the 2011 Libyan uprising and arranging temperature-controlled HIV vaccine shipments to the African continent are some examples.
Simply put, the private sector has the resources to be a catalyst enabling humanitarian and development actors to address many of the most imperative issues of our time, from famine to reforestation.
In December 2021, OCHA estimated that US$ 41 billion would be needed in 2022 to address the most pressing humanitarian needs in the world. For the past decade, these needs have been rising steadily as a consequence of multiplying conflicts and the climate crisis, and they cannot be addressed by public funding alone.
If everyone requiring emergency aid lived in one country, it would be the fourth largest in the 🌍.
— UN Humanitarian (@UNOCHA) December 31, 2021
An on-going challenge in building alliances between humanitarian organizations and the private sector is to find the balance between constructive collaborations and actions more focused on attracting attention. Some companies who offer humanitarian support prefer doing so anonymously to ensure that they aren’t criticized for getting “free publicity” linked to human suffering.
This may be part of why, despite the demonstrated value of private sector contributions to humanitarian emergencies and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the private sector – especially local businesses – are frequently overlooked. Business is still far from being systematically included in humanitarian coordination systems. More needs to be done to leverage its expertise and contribution to principled and accountable disaster response and recovery in sudden-onset and complex emergencies, whether natural hazards or human-made conflicts and pandemics.
As Ukraine reminds us, public-private collaborations have the power to mitigate the impact of crises. Together, we can address conflict, the climate breakdown, and so much more – but only if we build on the respective expertise of all involved, putting the needs front and center.
To donate to the UN Ukraine Humanitarian Fund, follow this link: https://crisisrelief.un.org/t/ukraine
The Ukraine Humanitarian Fund is one of the UN’s country-based pooled funds. Contributions are collected into a single, unearmarked fund and managed locally under UN leadership. As crises evolve, funds are made directly and immediately available to a wide range of partner organizations at the front lines of response. This way, funding reaches the people most in need when they need it.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal steelplant in Mariupol, Ukraine, May 2022. Photo Credit:United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).