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close this bookHandbook for Emergencies - Second Edition (UNHCR, 1999, 414 p.)
close this folder18. Supplies and Transport
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentOverview
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentOrganization of the Supply Chain
View the documentSupplies
View the documentTransport
View the documentReception of Goods
View the documentStorage
View the documentStock Management
View the documentKey References
View the documentAnnexes


· There must be appropriate storage capacity, correctly sited;

· The requirement for buffer stocks must be properly calculated and forecasted - do not hoard "just to be prepared".

Basic Requirements

63. Goods must be protected from damage due to bad handling or improper stacking; the adverse climatic effects of the sun, rain, cold or humidity; attacks by pests; and bacteriological decomposition of both food and non-food items over time.

64. Storage facilities may be required for:

i. Initial storage near the port of entry;

ii. Transit storage at certain key transhipment locations;

iii. Local storage no farther than one day's transport from the refugees;

iv. Storage at camps.

See figure 1 for information about location of storage facilities.

65. Warehouses must be accessible in all seasons and weather - plan well in advance of the winter or rainy seasons. Existing government warehousing should be used if it meets operational requirements.

66. Security of supplies must be ensured. Warehouses must be secure against theft, and should be lit if possible. Storage for local purchases should be the responsibility of the supplier whenever possible. Particular attention must be paid to those items requiring special storage.

67. A single large building is better than several small ones, as long as there are sufficient loading doors and access ramps. The doors must be large enough to allow for quick loading and offloading and small enough to keep control of the entry and alleyways.

68. Organize the distribution and storage system so that supplies are handled a minimum number of times. This will not only incur less costs, but also less damage and loss. Remember the rule "first in first out" for stock management and avoid offloading in the rain.

Considerations in Warehouse Selection

69. Warehouses should be well-constructed, dry, well-ventilated, and provide protection from rodents, inserts and birds. The floor should be flat and firm and the building should be easy to access, with suitable arrangements for loading and unloading (e.g. a ramp or platform).

70. When selecting a warehouse check the following:

State of the roof and ventilation;

State of the walls and whether they are watertight;

State of the floor, its insulation and general water drainage;

Number of traffic lanes and doors;

Availability of handling equipment and labour;

Utilities (water, electricity, toilets, fire protection);

Office space and lodging for drivers and guards;

Special configuration as necessary for example for fuel, construction material, water reserves;

Fences, guards, and secure doors and windows.

71. Warehouse capacity required will depend on the nature, variety and quantity of goods supplied, the numbers of refugees they serve, and what outside support they need. Buffer stocks of essential items, particularly food and fuel, should be built up close to the refugees.

Sufficient stocks should be on hand to cover likely interruptions in the delivery schedule. As a rule of thumb, this should cover one to three months distribution.

Conversely, care should be taken not to hold unnecessarily large stocks of items that are not immediately required by the refugees, e.g. seasonal items such as heaters or blankets.

72. The volume of a warehouse necessary to store a given commodity may be roughly estimated as follows. First calculate the volume of the goods. As an indication:

1 Metric Tonne of

Occupies approximately


2 m3


3 m3

blankets (approx. 700 heavy blankets per bale)

4-5 m3

blankets (loose)

9 m3

tents (approx. 25 family tents

4-5 m3

If the goods can be stored to height of 2 metres, the minimum surface area occupied by the goods will be half their volume. Increase this surface area by at least 20% to allow for access and ventilation.

73. For example, the approximate size of a store to hold 2 months' supply of the cereal staple for 30,000 refugees receiving an individual cereal ration of 350 g/day would be:

350 g × 30,000 × 60 days = 630 MT

1 MT of grain occupies 2 m3

Therefore 630 MT occupies 1,260 m3.

1,260 m3 stored to a height of 2 m gives a surface area of 630 m2, add 20% for access = 756 m2 of floor space. A building some 50 m long by 15 m wide would therefore be indicated.

Warehouse construction

74. If suitable storage facilities do not exist, they may have to be built. Local techniques, materials and practices are likely to be the most appropriate in the longer term. However, for rapid construction, it may be necessary to use prefabricated (tent) warehouses as a temporary measure. These should be carefully sited, protected from surface water by digging ditches if necessary, and with raised platforms inside (for example using pallets, or groundsheets on sand). The contents must not touch the tent walls. Prefabricated warehouses are held as part of the UNHCR central emergency stockpile. They are 24 m long × 10 m wide with a capacity of between 750 to 1,100 m3.