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WFP: Flight operations that save lives
World Food program prioritize the training and the operational safety
Sonia Alvarez
To describe the work of the World Food Program (WFP) is complex, however their mission may be
summarized in a simple statement: save lives transporting food around the clock to feed the vulnerable
and hungry people.
This UN Agency has been in the frontline fighting hunger for years, helping millions of people in the
most punished regions in the planet to assuring their food security.
This commendable work requires a dynamic logistic support, effective and safe. Working under extreme
conditions makes safety essential factor in their operations, including also the air operations are part of
the response to the humanitarian emergencies that WFP faces.
The Captain Samir Sajet, Regional Aviation Safety Officer for Middle East and Asia, part of the WFP’s
Aviation Safety Unit, recently visited Spain y AVIADOR had the opportunity to talk with him regarding his
As the work of WFP is commendable, it is also remarkable the seriousness and effort put in this work.
“We evaluate the operational safety of all the air operators chartered by WFP. We have requirements
that need to be complied with to be chartered by WFP. We also have a risk management program and
we constantly and directly follow-up on the field how the air operators work and which problems they
face.”, stated Sajet.
WFP is conscious of the difficulties that most of the countries where WFP works have to cope with. For
this reason WFP tries to facilitate as much as possible the training on safety issues. “The training and
development of the staff is essential. We periodically organize conferences and seminars promoting
safety guided to the countries’ aviation authorities. They just have to attend and as they participate
important values are shared.”
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Be there as soon as possible.
When he is asked for the main challenges for WFP, Samir Sajet has them clear on his mind: “When an
onset emergency the main challenge is to position as soon as possible, because this will let us save more
lives.” On this regard, deploy aircraft and helicopters as soon as possible to be in place in the first hours
is crucial so the help may reach the people in need promptly.
Earthquakes, floods or tsunamis are the type of emergencies that trigger the intervention of the World
Food Program. In these situations applying logical thinking is a key factor and in just 48 hours is required
to define a response plan. To establish an operations centre and coordinate the first delivers of food or
other necessary materiel.
On the incoming days the transport lines to deliver aid are defined where the air means play a key role.
In many cases only helicopters may reach remote and inaccessible areas.
Sajet also recognize that nowadays to keep up the support of the countries that support WFP is a
The work of persons like Samir Sajet and
organizations like WFP save lives and remind us like
principles like solidarity are valid today and are still
necessary. Beyond the commercial aviation there is
another aviation that operates under extreme
conditions with the goal of helping people in need.
And all that without forgetting about training and
operational safety.
“We also have a risk management program
and we constantly and directly follow-up on
the field how the air operators work and
which problems they face.”
Samir Sajet, commitment and rigor
Samir Sajet works with United Nations since
1998. His work as responsible for air transport
started in East Africa, based at Guinea
Conakry. Lately he was assigned to Kenya, Irak
from where he is originally, Pakistan and
Afghanistan. Since 2003 works as Regional
Aviation Safety Officer for Middle East and
Asia based at UAE. His work has always been
related to operational safety, facing
emergencies like famine and armed conflicts
in some of the most remote regions in the
planet. Before joining WFP, Samir Sajet served
23 years in the Irak’s Army and in air
companies in his Country.
On this regard and before talking about SMS, according Samir Sajet, basic
safety knowledge has to be transmitted for what the training is the best tool.
The relationship of WFP with the air operators is very demanding regarding
crew requirements. “We closely monitor the crew environment at the field: the
food, the accommodation, the security, etc. We take care of them and we
ensure they rotate periodically, because they work under hard conditions.
Additionally we know that the crew will not comply with the air operator but
they do discuss the issues with WFP, we may demand the air operator to
improve some conditions if they don’t want to lose the contract.” Precisely due
to the hard work Sajet remarks the importance the relevance of the periodical
rotation of crew, although crew will not always want it. On the other hand,
WFP preferably choice air operators from the areas where is present, because
this way WFP contributes to the economic development of these countries.
Samir Sajet (right) with Ivan Gutierrez
(left), Technical General Director during
his visit to COPAC HQ