The UK aid-funded Humanitarian and Stabilisation Operations Team (HSOT) has published their sixth annual report. It tells the story of how the team has flexed over the past 12 months, supporting the UK Government in response to crises across the globe. HSOT provides the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) with capacity and specialist expertise to effectively respond to disasters, crises, and complex emergencies around the world.
The report shares the impact of over 80 core staff members and hundreds of consultants working alongside FCDO in some of the most difficult environments in the world. “The past year has been fraught with increasing instability and intractable crises,” says HSOT Director Rebecca Pankurst-Lapiña.
“Millions are suffering the consequences of conflict and natural disaster. The international community is grappling with ever more complex challenges, as protracted conflicts are continuing to rise, climate change creates new disasters and compounds existing ones, and access to vulnerable populations living in situations of profound insecurity is decreasing.”
In the past year, the team responded to ten emerging crises, including large-scale humanitarian responses to the earthquakes in Türkiye and north-west Syria, flooding in Libya and cyclones in Mozambique and Malawi. The team was deployed to more than 40 countries and delivered over 100,00 humanitarian relief items with a value of £25.8M.
In Türkiye, where HSOT responded immediately to the government’s request for humanitarian support in the wake of two major earthquakes, the team managed the movement of cargo across four Royal Air Force flights, seven air charter flights and free air freight offered by Turkish airlines from the UK and Dubai. The procurement and logistics team consigned 23,840 blankets and nearly 2,000 tents to the Disaster and Emergency management Authority in Türkiye.
“In Türkiye, my focus was on security contacts, plan updates, tracking the team, and communicating with HSOT in London,” explains Scott Richards, Operation Security Advisor, who joined the first wave team travelling to the region. “We addressed risks, including those from civil unrest, looting, and clashes among locals legally armed, thereby enabling our operational presence on the ground.
Not long after the team’s response in Türkiye, a core team of Humanitarian Advisors deployed to Mozambique to support planning in advance of Cyclone Freddy. Aid to Mozambique included emergency shelters, solar lights, and menstrual hygiene kits, and a key focus for the team was the UK’s response to the high number of displaced people and the escalating cholera outbreak.
Throughout the year, the team continued providing critical support to Ukraine, including the aftermath of the Kakhovka dam collapse. Over the course of a 5-week response, HSOT’s procurement and logistics specialists sourced specialist items, including waders, wastewater pumps, inflatable boats, and water tankers from 115 new suppliers. The water pumps can remove the equivalent of 80 Olympic swimming pools of water per day, whilst each tanker can hold 26-28,000 litres of safe drinking water for the affected communities.
The report showcases the depth and breadth of HSOT and much of the work that goes on behind the scenes of their large-scale humanitarian responses. HSOT manages a roster of over 200 humanitarian experts and all year round, the teams dedicate significant time and effort to be equipped and ready to respond to crises.
According to Palladium co-CEO Sinéad Magill, the team’s preparedness and ability to adapt to the changing face of humanitarian crisis is one of their strongest suits. “I’m enormously proud of the work the team has done over the past year, both on the ground, and in the background supporting FCDO through their early warning, analysis, and reporting.”
“Their work continues to set the standard for sustainable, localised, and most importantly, effective, humanitarian responses, around the world.”
From safety and security preparations, to restocking and testing supplies and plans, receiving mental health first aid training, and capturing and sharing lessons from past responses, the team’s strategic behind-the-scenes preparedness work is vital. Because when lives are on the line, responding quickly and effectively make all the difference.