Men in reflective vests move pallets of supplies at a warehouse in Ukraine

Logistics experts deliver aid near the front line of conflict

Humanity & Inclusion logistics experts in Ukraine support Save the Children to deliver essential humanitarian goods to the bombarded city of Bakhmut.

In eastern Ukraine, accessing areas close to the front line of conflict is a key issue for humanitarian actors bringing aid for populations unable to flee the war.

With the support of the European Union and the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Humanity & Inclusion transports essential goods and supplies from the city of Dnipro to cities and towns located at the heart of the conflict, within 12 miles of the front line. The organization’s team of highly experienced project managers, logisticians, security experts and drivers offer safe, innovative and ethical logistics solutions to more than 20 partner organizations. The logistics platform operates within the framework of a global partnership with the organizations Bioport and RLH Coop.

Bakhmut: a humanitarian emergency

On July 10, Humanity & Inclusion received its 128th transport request in Ukraine since March. Save the Children wanted to send 10 tons of water and food to Bakhmut in less than two days.

Located in the east of the Donetsk region, Bakhmut had nearly 80,000 residents before the war. Today, only 15,000 people remain in the city that is just seven miles from the front line. Since June 25, the town has been the scene of intense bombing, day and night. In Bakhmut, nearly no shops are open and the drinking water system has been heavily damaged. Residents had run out of their last food and water reserves.

Bakhmut was classified as a "red zone." The day after the request, the city was bombed nine times in one day.

Humanitarian access: at what cost?

“Given this context, delivering to Bakhmut represented a significant risk for our teams,” says Bruno Michon, Humanity & Inclusion’s logistics operations manager in Ukraine. “However, we had to make the decision of whether or not to go. What was the humanitarian benefit of this transport compared to the security risk it poses?”

In Ukraine, Humanity & Inclusion’s teams ask themselves this question every day. To answer it, each transport request is meticulously analyzed by a team of humanitarian access experts.

“This time, the answer came quickly: Bakhmut was out of our reach. How could we get aid to those in need,” Michon asks. The answer came from the inhabitants of Bakhmut themselves and the volunteers in charge of receiving cargo from Save the Children.

“In less than 24 hours and after many twists and turns, they informed us that they had found a truck and some fuel,” Michon explains. They proposed we meet to transfer the goods from one truck to the other, known as a ‘kiss,’ 10 minutes from Bakhmut in Ivanivske. We accepted their proposal. However, this ‘kiss’ had to be orchestrated down to the minute, without losing any time during the unloading and loading of the two trucks. It is at this precise step that the teams are most exposed to danger.”  

c_HI__People_move_boxes_of_supplies_from_one_truck_to_another_in_Ukraine.jpgTeams transfer supplies from one truck to another in a 'kiss' delivery in Ivanivske, Ukraine.

A 'kiss' in Ivanivske

At 6:20 a.m. on July 12, Humanity & Inclusion’s driver, Taras, left the city of Dnipro with the supplies to be delivered. At 09:40, after many checkpoints, the Save The Children volunteers in Bakhmut received a signal: it's time!

“They have only 25 minutes to get to the meeting point in Ivanivske,” Michon says. “Tensions are high, there’s no time to waste.”

On-site at 10:05 am, the two trucks park back-to-back and the boxes are passed quickly from one to the other. The "kiss" lasts only a few minutes, before each truck departs in opposite directions.

That day, on the humanitarian map, Humanity & Inclusion’s ‘last mile’ of safe access ended at the doorstep of Bakhmut. However, thanks to logistics expertise and a chain of solidarity, the people of Bakhmut were able to receive vital food and water for their families.