‘We make things happen in sun, hail and rain’
A behind-the-scenes look at the WFP-led Logistics Cluster’s Turkey-Syria cross-border operation
“See just up the road. That’s the second convoy. It’ll be here soon,” says Mazlum Guzel, Logistics Assistant with the Logistics Cluster in Turkey.
Nineteen trucks line the fence of a logistics hub in the border town of Reyhanli, in Hatay, southern Turkey. It’s quiet right now, a brief moment of respite in between cargo loads. But I’m told that’ll quickly change.
I’m at one of the two World Food Programme (WFP)-led Logistics Cluster transhipment points in Turkey. From here the cluster helps facilitate the transfer of humanitarian cargo from Turkey-registered trucks to Syrian ones, on behalf of responding organisations. The cargo then makes its way across the border to help people affected by the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
The service is a core activity of the Logistics Cluster’s Syria operation, ensuring life-saving assistance is delivered quickly and efficiently.
Since 2014, the Logistics Cluster’s cross-border operation in Turkey has coordinated the cross-loading of relief items for more than 23,600 trucks. That’s millions of kilos worth of humanitarian assistance — thousands of critical relief items targeting health, nutrition, food, education, protection and shelter needs.
The first of the 19-truck convoy pulls into the hub. Radios crackle. Activity changes gear as the 180-strong hub team — customs officials, manual labours, organisational reps — take their positions. For a newcomer, witnessing this quick shift into action is highly impressive: as rapid responses go this is a well-oiled machine.
In their own words…
Weaving in between trucks, paperwork, and personnel, I visit both transhipment points to find out a little more on the most important asset of any Logistics Cluster operation: its people. Below, four talk shop.
Levent Kucukaslan, Logistics Assistant
“My day involves coordinating with different organisations, customs, transporters, implementing partners and service providers, as well cross-checking truck details and destination points, before the convoy sets off with humanitarian cargo across the Syrian border. Cross-border operations wouldn’t work without teamwork. That allows us to achieve more. I enjoy working on the operation, and I’m always eager to learn more in the future.”
Silan Reyhanogullari, Logistics Assistant
“For me, this operation wouldn’t be possible without the 180 people running around the hub — we each have an important role to play. That’s what I am most proud of… the team.
“We are only able to meet operational requests, to scale-up from 25 trucks, to 30 trucks, to 40 trucks per day, because of those on the ground working throughout the year, coordinating and loading the trucks in sun, rain and hail, and making things happen.”
Halil Cepoglu, Logistics Officer
“I’ve been working on the response for more than two years. When working with multiple partners and different schedules you need to be flexible, and build strong relationships across the humanitarian sector.
“This transhipment operation has shown us the value and importance of how effective planning and coordination mechanisms can support humanitarian operations and communities impacted by crises from afar.”
Mazlum Guzel, Logistics Assistant
“The work environment is highly dynamic. At the moment the hub’s capacity is around 40 trucks per day. Our morning starts with the arrival of the convoy of Syrian trucks to the hub.
“Once passing over the weighbridge, the trucks are parked back-to-back ready for the required checks, before cross-loading begins. Once complete, we coordinate the convoy to the border gate, before the next trucks arrive, and the operation starts all over again. Experiencing challenges is a normal part of any operation, being able to solve and overcome them is what keeps my motivation alive.”
The WFP-led Logistics Cluster was activated in Syria in January 2013. Find out more about the Logistics Cluster Syria operation here.