Yemen: Lessons Learned Report, April 2017 (covering the period March 2015 to December 2016)
The Lessons Learned Exercise for the Logistics Cluster operation in Yemen was conducted at the beginning of 2017, covering the period March 2015 until December 2016. The main objectives of the exercise were to draw on the lessons learned and identify best practices for the Yemen operation as well as other Logistics Cluster operations.
The review period was selected to cover the time after the outbreak of the crisis in Yemen in March 2015, when the Logistics Cluster operation was significantly scaled up to respond to the increased logistics needs of the humanitarian community. As a result, a transit hub was set up in Djibouti for all relief cargo destined for Yemen, after commercial sea and air transport providers had suspended their services.
Overall, the Logistics Cluster in Yemen was considered highly relevant. In such a complex operating environment, it was deemed essential to rely on the Logistics Cluster for the coordination of the delivery of life-saving cargo into and across the country.
While the Logistics Cluster had difficulties in setting up the right services at the beginning of the crisis and to ensure effective implementation in a very challenging operating environment, humanitarian partners recognised that over time the cluster operation improved significantly and was considered satisfactory towards the end of 2016. Nevertheless, there were a number of lessons to be learned from the 22-months review period.
While coordination and Information Management were considered effective and time-efficient, the main issues were related to the facilitation of sea transport services from Djibouti to Yemen. In 2015, these services were considered very slow, costly, and did not address organisations’ needs adequately. The main problems identified were: the lack of a clear sea transport strategy; the limited capacity of the World Food Programme (WFP) to support the Logistics Cluster with service implementation; and the insufficient initiative of the Logistics Cluster in finding alternative solutions to facilitate common services.
One of the main lessons learned was that the Logistics Cluster should not solely rely on WFP support, but should properly analyse the capacities of all organisations on the ground and those of private sector partners to determine who is best placed to provide the logistics services required by the humanitarian community.
In addition, the insufficient presence of cluster management in Djibouti was found as a major weakness. In an operational setting where activities are implemented in several countries, a strong supervision from the Cluster Coordinator or his/her Deputy and a robust team set-up are important.
Deploying the Cluster Coordinator or Deputy Coordinator in Djibouti, or ensuring frequent communication and travel could have improved the decision-making required to solve the problems faced regarding the sea transport services.
Another finding of this exercise was the need for a more active outreach to national Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). The majority of national NGOs interviewed were not aware of the Logistics Cluster presence and work in Yemen. Those who were, did not make use of the cluster coordination mechanisms, Information Management products and logistics services as they believed they were not meant for local organisations. Having a high field presence and procuring relief items locally, national NGOs required different logistical support than international organisations. At the same time, they have important ground knowledge, which the Logistics Cluster could make available to all its partners. A better collaboration with national NGOs should be included in the Logistics Cluster strategy.
Given the wide-ranging Logistics Cluster service portfolio in Yemen, multiple competing priorities and limited staff capacity, it was also found that the fuel provision service should be re-evaluated and based on a well-founded strategy. A thorough reassessment of organisations’ needs was necessary to determine whether the Logistics Cluster should facilitate a regular fuel service, as opposed to access to fuel contingency stocks.