On June 8, 2022, Uber donated a customized version of its “Uber Direct” software app to the U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) to help distribute food in Ukraine. Some urban areas in Ukraine are hard to reach with conventional large delivery trucks because the areas are densely populated. Therefore, the WFP’s humanitarian partnership with Uber allows the WFP to use a customized version of the Uber Direct app so the WFP can easily reach food insecure Ukrainians in urban areas. In addition, with the Uber Direct app, the WFP will be able to “coordinate a fleet of vehicles and track deliveries in real time.”
Innovative Approaches to Delivering Aid
The WFP’s partnership with Uber highlights the potential of modern technology to solve modern-day global humanitarian issues. The conflict between Ukraine and Russia makes it difficult for international humanitarian organizations to deliver food and other essential items due to ongoing military operations.
Russia is blockading Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, which are important for the transportation of food to developing countries struggling with food insecurity. However, innovative approaches to delivering aid, such as the customized version of the Uber Direct software app, give humanitarian organizations opportunities to efficiently tackle food insecurity in war-torn countries. Thus, WFP’s partnership with Uber in Ukraine illustrates how technology can stand as an important tool in the reduction of global poverty.
The Food Insecurity Situation in Ukraine
As of May 21, 2022, one in three Ukrainian households faced food insecurity due to the war, according to the WFP. Furthermore, these Ukrainians have lost their jobs, which means they have no income to support themselves and many have had to abandon their homes.
Russian forces are destroying farms and croplands in Ukraine. Additionally, the Guardian reported on June 13, 2022, that “Ukraine’s national seed bank has been partly destroyed amid fighting in Kharkiv in the north-east, where almost 2,000 crop samples rest in underground vaults.” The situation further exacerbates food insecurity in Ukraine. Therefore, the WFP’s humanitarian partnership with Uber is necessary in order to easily deliver emergency food to Ukrainians at risk of food insecurity.
How Uber Can Assist in Tackling Food Insecurity in Ukraine
The WFP “is already using the [Uber Direct] app in Dnipro,” but because food insecurity is widespread in Ukraine, the WFP intends to also send deliveries of food aid to Lviv, Vinnytsia, Kyiv and Chernivtsi. The customized Uber Direct app allows the WFP to “schedule, dispatch, track and manage deliveries by a network of cars and small vans to final distribution points within a 100km radius of WFP warehouses across the country.” Additionally, the WFP’s humanitarian partnership with Uber also includes a $250,000 donation from Uber to the WFP USA “to support the emergency response in Ukraine.”
Private Sector Support
Although the WFP’s humanitarian partnership with Uber is innovative and transformative, Uber is not the only private company providing support to the WFP to help Ukrainians. The John Deere Foundation, the charitable arm of John Deere, announced on May 18, 2022, a donation of $1 million to the WFP U.S.A so it can “combat global food insecurity” and tackle rising hunger in Ukraine. The John Deere Foundation also said that 50% of the donation will go to the WFP’s Innovation Accelerator, which “sources, supports and scales high-impact innovations to achieve zero hunger.” The support from Uber and the John Deere Foundation to the WFP illustrates the commitment of the private sector to humanitarian work, which is instrumental to ending global poverty.
International organizations have been documenting the steady decline in global poverty over the past decades before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. However, some may wonder how global poverty can be declining, given the wars and conflicts ongoing in many countries around the world. To find the answer is to look at how humanitarian organizations are leveraging their relationships with the private sector to discover creative ways to solve poverty and hunger. The WFP’s use of the customized Uber Direct app in Ukraine to deliver food to densely populated areas is a shining and, perhaps, enduring example.
– Abdullah Dowaihy