Faced with a rising number of sometimes almost simultaneous emergencies, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has launched a new response network with strategic hubs in Africa, Europe, Middle East, Asia and Latin America ready to transport life-saving supplies within 24 to 48 hours by air and sea.“With the growing number of natural disasters, aid agencies must be better prepared and better equipped to reach affected populations, as quickly as possible,” WFP Transport and Procurement Division Director Ramiro Lopes da Silva said in a statement today. As an example of the need such a network, the Agency noted that a year ago thousands of people in Guatemala were hit by Hurricane Stan while Pakistan was rocked by a massive earthquake just a few days later. Modelled on the UN Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) in Brindisi in southern Italy, each hub will stock strategic supplies of relief goods and equipment. Established in June 2000 and managed by WFP, the Brindisi base has provided critical support to UN agencies, governments, and non-government organizations (NGOs) during emergencies such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the recent crisis in Lebanon. “By establishing a presence in strategic corners of the world, we are taking a further key step towards enhancing further our performance in assisting those in need,” Mr. Lopes da Silva said.The new network comprises depots in Ghana (Accra), Dubai, Panama, Malaysia and Brindisi. “Over the last six years, the logistical support from the Brindisi hub made a significant difference to the speed and efficiency of emergency response as seen during crises stretching from the earthquake in Iran to conflicts in Afghanistan and Darfur,” UNHRD Network Coordinator Giuseppe Saba said.“By positioning critical supplies around the globe, there is no doubt that we will be able to help people more rapidly and more effectively – very possibly, making the difference between life and death.” Financial and in-kind support to the new network is coming from a variety of governments and institutions, including NGOs such as the Swedish Rescue and Response Agency (SRSA) and Solidarity. TNT, the global express logistics and mail company and WFP’s corporate partner, is also assisting by temporarily hosting the facility in Ghana.