In the desert, southwest of a cluster of skyscrapers that forms Dubai’s central business district, a long stretch of hangars sit in the empty space between the emirate’s airport and Jebel Ali port.

The warehouses are stocked with medical kits and boxes of high-energy biscuits. Outside, a mobile hospital vehicle sits on the tarmac, waiting to be dispatched at a few hours’ notice to the as-yet-unknown location of the world’s next humanitarian crisis.

This is Dubai’s International Humanitarian City, a “free zone” where United Nations agencies and nongovernmental organizations can store goods and equipment for emergency dispatch to crisis areas. Officials behind the hub, which has sent aid to Asia, the Middle East, the Pacific islands and the Caribbean, hope it can play a vital role in coordinating global responses to growing numbers of natural and man-made disasters.

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