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Uber, United Nations join forces to deliver food in war-torn Ukraine

World Food Program using Uber technology to schedule, dispatch and track deliveries

A small Uber car makes its way through the streets of Kyiv, Ukraine (Photo: Shutterstock)

The war in Ukraine has pummeled global supply chains, limiting the country’s ability to export key natural resources like silver — and import crucial supplies like food.

To combat the growing food insecurity in war-torn Ukraine, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has turned to an unlikely source.

This week, WFP released a joint statement with mobility and delivery powerhouse Uber (NYSE: UBER), announcing that the technology company is lending a custom-built version of its platform to the agency to transport food in hard-to-reach urban areas of Ukraine including Dnipro, Lviv and Kyiv.

Uber will provide WFP a modified version of its Uber Direct platform used by big names like Apple. Typically, Uber charges a commission for each delivery made with the service, but WFP will have free access.

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“This technology helps WFP facilitate its response and improves how we serve communities in Ukraine that rely on us,” said Matthew Hollingworth, WFP’s emergency coordinator in Ukraine. “It enhances our access to Ukrainian businesses within Uber’s network, making our operations more efficient while also harnessing local capacities.”

In urban areas, larger vehicles have faced issues delivering relief, which is where Uber comes in. WFP has already handpicked a fleet of smaller vehicles and drivers and has been using the modified Uber platform to coordinate dispatches from its warehouse in Dnipro to the rest of the city. Up to a range of about 62 miles, WFP can also track drivers and deliveries in real time.

According to Uber and WFP, deliveries of emergency food supplies are also taking place outside Dnipro in the cities of Kyiv, Vinnytsia, Lviv and Chernivtsi. Additionally, Uber donated $250,000 to World Food Program USA to help support the emergency response.

“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 customized version of the Uber platform,” said Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. “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 100 [kilometer] radius of WFP warehouses across the country.”

Watch: More help for the people of Ukraine

Somewhat quietly, Uber has been providing aid to Ukraine since the very beginning of the conflict. In March, the platform announced several initiatives, including unlimited free trips between the Ukrainian border and Polish cities, an in-app donation button and the transport of 60 tons of food and essential supplies from Romania, working with the International Red Cross.

Uber also decided to pause rideshare operations in March, resuming some operations in April. All drivers in Ukraine received advance payments, and the company said it was exploring ways to help refugees outside of the country find work on the platform.

Now it could be a difference maker in WFP’s mission to provide food and cash to an estimated 3 million people a month by the end of June.

​​“We thank Uber for helping us deliver critical humanitarian assistance in Ukraine,” said Barron Segar, president and CEO of World Food Program USA. “Private-sector collaborations like this are critical in helping us deploy innovative, custom solutions to address complex challenges.”

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Jack Daleo

Jack Daleo is a staff writer for Flying Magazine covering advanced air mobility, including everything from drones to unmanned aircraft systems to space travel — and a whole lot more. He spent close to two years reporting on drone delivery for FreightWaves, covering the biggest news and developments in the space and connecting with industry executives and experts. Jack is also a basketball aficionado, a frequent traveler and a lover of all things logistics.