Training speeds delivery of essential supplies after Balkans flood emergency

Agility’s Markus Lampe, an expert in humanitarian logistics, worked in Brcko, Bosnia & Herzegovina in May following the heaviest flooding there in 120 years. He served as logistics officer for a German water purification team and had a chance encounter with relief workers he had trained only a month earlier. Lampe, an Agility road freight manager based in Hamburg, serves as a volunteer logistics manager for Germany’s Federal Agency for Technical Relief. He has deployed to Haiti, Pakistan and Jordan in the aftermath of natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies. A month before the floods, Agility sent Lampe to Split, Croatia to provide logistics training to staff of the International Medical Corps (IMC), a global, humanitarian, nongovernmental organization and first responder that has partnered with Agility in Indonesia, Haiti, DR Congo and South Sudan. In Split, Markus worked closely with Marin Tomas, International Medical Corps’ global logistics manager.

For five days last spring, Markus Lampe took International Medical Corps staff through the basics of disaster-response logistics. At the International Medical Corps office in Split, Croatia, he taught them how to evaluate transportation options, calculate costs, clear goods through customs, organize warehousing, complete bills of lading, release cargo without the original bill of lading and secure cargo in a truck or an airplane. Afterward, he ran through scenarios intended to get the staff to solve tough problems – conducting a road assessment after an earthquake, operating a warehouse in a remote area.

Training helped them work more smoothly with the Red Cross and other relief partners, particularly when it came to accurately preparing documentation for customs clearance.

Weeks later, Markus was surprised to come across International Medical Corps’ Marin Tomas and other International Medical Corps staffers in the midst of a real disaster, this one brought on by catastrophic flooding and landslides in Bosnia that were triggered by some of the heaviest rains in more than a century.

Markus and Marin met up in the small town of Brcko. While they were not working together formally, Markus shared information that helped the International Medical Corps understand where to devote its resources.

Marin says: “Although the visit with Markus was a social one, we received good insight from him on what had been done in the water and sanitation sector where he was deployed. From what he told us, it was clear that there was no need for the International Medical Corps to get involved there because the area was well covered by his and other international teams. When you have scarce resources and need to know how best to utilize them, this kind of information is very useful because it determines how you can allocate your funding by meeting basic needs of the affected population, without overlaps with other humanitarian actors and government efforts.”

Instead, the International Medical Corps worked to bring in relief supplies. They helped deliver food for children, cleaning supplies, medical equipment, furniture, ambulances and other vital goods well worth over one million euros.

Three of the deployed International Medical Corps staff had received logistics training from Markus in Split. Of those, Marin and a colleague operated in Bosnia. Another colleague was deployed initially to Serbia and then joined them in Bosnia. Marin says the training helped them work more smoothly with the Red Cross and other relief partners when it came to accurately preparing documentation for customs clearance.

Furthermore, he says goods coming by road arrived more quickly because the team understood the European trade union regulations requiring mandatory breaks for drivers. By factoring break time into delivery schedules, the team was able to account for accurate delivery time and plan optimal distribution accordingly each time there was a convoy with relief goods coming into the country.

“We were lucky to have had the logistics training delivered by Markus,” he says. Markus completed his tour in Bosnia and Herzegovina and returned to work at Agility Hamburg. He says he is grateful to his supervisors and colleagues for allowing him the time away to assist in humanitarian emergencies. “Volunteering during times of need is my way of contributing and making a difference,” he says.


The floods that struck the Balkans in May were the worst in 120 years, damaging and destroying as much property and infrastructure as the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. Three months’ of rain fell in a matter of days, wiping out bridges and roads, and triggering landslides that shifted uncleared wartime minefields. The social costs and the cost to rebuild are massive.

The final bill for the floods that hit Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia is expected to be billions of euros. It is a disaster that Bosnia – one of the poorest countries in Europe – cannot afford. Here the average net wage is just 420 euros a month. Unlike Croatia, an EU member state, and Serbia, a candidate for EU membership, Bosnia does not have access to the EU’s Solidarity Fund and receives EU funding of only around 100m euros a year.

To compound Bosnia’s misfortune, heavy rains returned in August, washing away many of the temporary structures erected to shelter those displaced in the first round of flooding. International donors have pledged nearly 2 million euros to aid recovery and rebuilding in Bosnia and Serbia.


International Medical Corps’ Mission: From Relief to Self-Reliance
Established in 1984, International Medical Corps has worked in more than 70 countries around the world delivering more than $1.6 billion in health care programming and providing health worker training and humanitarian services. With a staff of more than 4,700 worldwide, International Medical Corps works alongside local communities in hard-hit, conflict areas to ensure that those affected receive both the tools and the skills needed to become their own best First Responders.

Since its inception 30 years ago, International Medical Corps’ mission has been consistent: relieve the suffering of those impacted by war, natural disaster and disease, by delivering vital health care services that focus on training. This approach of helping people help themselves is critical to returning devastated populations to self-reliance.

International Medical Corps’ disaster response operations require significant global logistics support in areas that have experienced massive structural devastation, including damaged transport infrastructure such as roads, bridges, port facilities and airports. In support of these emergency operations, and in an effort to quickly and efficiently deliver critical services, Agility sends highly-skilled and experienced logistics personnel, equipment and other resources to the field and has assisted International Medical Corps with relief commodities transport on several occasions, or has provided valuable technical advice. Agility employees have over the years participated in numerous global donation drives in support of International Medical Corps emergency relief operations. Agility and International Medical Corps have worked together to provide relief in some of the world’s most catastrophic disasters and dangerous environments, including the earthquakes in Haiti and Indonesia, the tsunami in Indonesia, the typhoon in the Philippines and in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. International Medical Corps has operated an office in Split, Croatia, since the conflict in the Balkans in the 1990s. Based on our relationship and logistics expertise, Marin Tomas invited us to train International Medical Corps’ freshly-hired team in Croatia on the nuances of running humanitarian logistics operations by adopting best practices from commercial logistics. Lampe was a natural choice with nearly 20 years of logistics expertise and numerous relief deployments over the years.

Agility has worked together with International Medical Corps on a number of relief efforts to provide rapid response and to deliver food, medicines, and other critically needed supplies to communities in the wake of disasters and conflict who are in need of long-term assistance. The partnership was formalized through a Memorandum of Understanding in January 2009 to provide rapid response to populations in need and logistical support for long-term assistance on both emergency relief and development settings.