A person checking their Uber app in London

UN partners with Uber to deliver food and aid in Ukraine

Image credit: Dreamstime

The United Nations will use a custom version of the Uber platform to deliver food and water supplies to war-torn areas of Ukraine.

A “private label” version of the Uber app is being used by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to track and coordinate a fleet of smaller vehicles delivering relief items to people in need in areas of Ukraine affected by the Russian invasion.

Through this platform, WFP can get its food closer to those people needing its support, dispatching deliveries in various sizes of vehicle, tracking each trip in real time until it reaches its destination, and confirming deliveries have been made safely. The service has already been used to deliver food in the central city of Dnipro, with the hope of extending it to four other cities: Lviv, Vinnytsia, Kyiv and Chernivtsi.

“WFP is playing a critical role in providing food and cash assistance to those most affected by the war in Ukraine,” said Matthew Hollingworth, WFP’s emergency coordinator in Ukraine. “This technology helps WFP facilitate its response and improves how we serve communities in Ukraine that rely on us.”

The constant threats of attacks, as well as the structural damage suffered by Ukrainian infrastructure, have greatly hindered the WFP’s efforts to deliver necessary emergency support across the country.

Uber’s platform allows the organisation to use smaller vehicles, and ensure the safety of their drivers. Although WFT is hand-picking its own drivers and vehicles, many of the people who are contributing to this effort used to work as Uber drivers before the invasion.

“Uber is thrilled to be working with WFP to help them more efficiently distribute emergency food relief across Ukraine, by providing free access to a customised version of the Uber platform,” said Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber. “Using our technology, WFP can now 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.”

Usually, large customers pay Uber a commission for the use of its Uber Direct platform. Clients include big names such as Apple and Tesco. However, the WFP is not being charged for this service, which was made available within a few weeks of its first contact with the organisation.

"It's not like you can wait a month to get food to people - people have got to get food immediately," said WFP executive director David Beasley.

WFP has rapidly scaled up its operations in and around Ukraine over the past three months. By the end of June, WFP will be providing food and cash to more than three million people per month in the country.

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