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ERBIL, Iraq: April 15, 2019. Staff from the UN Development Program (UNDP) and Deutsche Post DHL are conducting a ‘Get Airports Ready for Disaster’ (GARD) workshop this week in partnership with the Kurdistan Regional Government Joint Crisis Coordination Centre.

The five-day event will provide training to a mixed group of 30 airport staff as well as employees from government agencies at Erbil International Airport on how to prepare for post-disaster logistics.

In addition to security issues, Iraq continues to face multiple threats from natural disasters including drought and desertification, floods, sandstorms and earthquakes.

“As a frequent responder to help after natural disasters, we at DPDHL see it over and over again – airports quickly get overwhelmed by the chaos of incoming relief aid, UN and NGO personnel, military organizations and the crowds of people trying to leave,” explained DPDHL vice president Humanitarian Services Chris Weeks.

BEIRA airport aid “Add to this the fact that humanitarian aid sometimes arrives faster than the airport can organize for it to get out, and you get a massive bottleneck in the flow of relief logistics. Timing is critical during a disaster and the more efficient an airport is at processing incoming aircraft, the faster aid can get out to those in need.”

Last month Weeks and a DHL Disaster Response Team were deployed to Mozambique after Cyclone Idai destroyed 240,000 homes and left 1.85 million people in need of humanitarian assistance - including one million children and nearly 75,000 pregnant women.

Commenting at the time Weeks said: "One and a half weeks after the disaster conditions in this part of Mozambique remain critical. The rain hasn’t let up, the floodwater can’t drain away and the river continues to rise. Right now, the airport in Beira (pictured) is one of the few places in the city that is dry and has functioning infrastructure.”

The GARD workshop in Iraq is expected to determine airport capacity to process high volumes of passengers, cargo and warehousing relief supplies and areas for disaster logistics operations.

“We welcome this first-of-its kind initiative as it will further enhance our crisis management capacities to respond to disaster-affected people. We extend our thanks to UNDP Iraq and DPDHL for conducting this programme,” declared Hoshang Mohamed, director general of the Kurdistan government’s Joint Crisis Coordination Centre.

DHL and the UNDP have conducted nearly 50 GARD workshops in 24 countries since 2009 including Tehran (2017), Almaty (2017), Aqaba (2016), Amman (2014), Yerevan (2013) and Beirut (2012).

Vakhtang Svanidze, the UNDP Resident in Iraq said airport preparedness matters because the threat of natural or man-made disasters remains high. “Due to torrential rains, the country continues to witness large scale floods which have claimed lives, displaced people and destroyed property. The Mosul Dam poses significant risks to the lives and livelihoods of the vulnerable communities along the Tigris flood plain,” he explained.

“Managing the logistics of a large-scale disaster response can be complex. Air transport is crucial to providing smart and speedy humanitarian aid” and therefore UNDP actively advocates for the vital role of airport preparedness for efficient disaster response,” he added.

UPDATE: On April 12 the last DRT members moved out of Beira, their first deployment in Africa. According to DPDHL, the team moved nearly 800 tonnes of incoming humanitarian aid from approximately 50 aircraft for further distribution to those affected by the disaster.

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