o Types of disasters.
o Impact of disasters on people.
o What is Humanitarian Supply Chain
o Key Supply Chain Concepts and Terminology (SCM, Logistics, Procurement etc.)
o Disaster management cycle.
o Characteristics of humanitarian supply chain
o Challenges in Humanitarian Logistics.
• Disaster Management Cycle and Supply Chain
• Challenges in humanitarian Logistics
• Humanitarian Supply Chain Performance Measures.
History of Humanitarian Organisations
• The concept of humanitarian organizations (HOs) has ancient roots and is
admired in both Western and Eastern civilizations. In 1859 during the
Second Italian War of Independence, Henri Dunant witnessed the battle of
Solferino, and he took action to treat the soldiers who were suffering in the
battle. Dunant is credited as the founder of modern humanitarianism and the
founder of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
• A common theme of HOs is to provide service to humanity in a spirit of
impartiality and neutrality without discrimination
• The abiding prime objectives of HOs are to deal with disasters, to protect
human rights, to provide relief services and promote the universal desire for
personal and collective safety, security, respect, and dignity without any
view to profit [Doyle, Gorman, Mihalkanin 2016].
• HOs are highly dependent on their logistics and supply chain
management which represents approximately 80% of total relief
budgets Soratana K., 2019.
• Thus sound, knowledgeable management of logistics and supply chain
operations is vital to the successful achievement of HO objectives
• Humanitarian Organizations Logistics and Supply Chain Management
(HO-LSCM) operation cost is known to be approximately 25% higher
than comparable business supply chain management operations
Disasters, types and management cycle
oDisasters ( natural and man- made) are on the increase in today’s world and
they are becoming more complex. They are also occurring at a time when
donor support is also unpredictable (Van Wassenhove 2006).
Disaster can be distinguished on the basis of:
oMan-Made. Eg. Coup D’etat, War, terrorism etc
oNatural. Eg. floods, hurricanes, earthquakes
It can further be refined with respect to the predictability and speed of
oDisasters come to test the reactivity of our systems.
Disasters, types and management cycle cont’d
Disaster Management Cycle
oMitigation-This mainly relates to the framework, laws and
mechanism that are put in place principally by the government to
reduce social vulnerability and impact.
oPreparation- Operations that occur before disaster occurs and this
stage is quite important in terms of aspects such as physical network
planning, I&CT and bases for collaboration.
oResponse- refers to various operations which are instantly
implemented after a disaster occurs.
oReconstruction- activities in the aftermath of a disaster eg.
Defining humanitarian SCM/Logistics
• Humanitarian Logistics is the process of planning, implementing and controlling the efficient, cost-effective
flow and storage of goods and materials as well as related information from the point of origin to the point of
consumption for the purpose of alleviating the suffering of vulnerable people. Absent from this definition is
the notion of profit which is typical of all commercial supply chains(Van Wassenhove 2006:476).
• Humanitarian supply chain involves a set of logistical activities carried out during disaster response
operations with the aim of attaining coordinated logistics excellence (Herrmann 2007)
• It consists of a network of interaction between donors, governments, international and locally based agencies,
suppliers and numerous other stakeholders that coordinate and oversee the flow of supplies, services and
information for responding to beneficiary needs (Chari & Ngcamu 2017)
o Since disaster relief is about 80% of logistics, it would follow that the only way to achieve this is through
slick, efficient and effective logistics operations and more precisely, supply chain management (Van
Wassenhove 2006:475). Success or failure in terms of intervention is a function of logistics management.
o Disasters come to test the reactivity of our systems.
Key Stakeholders in HSCM
• Beneficiaries- vulnerable communities, people affected by disasters
• Governments- host Gvt and other friendly governments
• Inter-Governmental Organizations eg SADC,EU etc
• UN Agencies- eg UNDP,WFP,UNHCR,UNICEF etc
• Non Governmental Organizations- IRC, CARE International, MSF
(Doctors without borders), Goal, HALO Trust etc
• Donors- these are the main funders of humanitarian operations. Mainly
governments, companies and individual well wishers
Basic Functions of Humanitarian Logistics
• Tracking and tracing, and
• customs clearance from point of origin to point of consumption
• Planning and anticipation are vital to an effective logistical system. The plan must be based, first of
all, on a good working knowledge of the geographical, social, political and physical characteristics
of the area where the operations are to take place.
• Such a plan must not only be well thought out in advance, so that it can run smoothly—it must,
above all, be clearly understood and accepted by all stakeholders in any future relief operation
The plan must provide clear answers to the following questions
• Which tasks must be carried out? How do they relate to all the other activities, and what are the
correct sequences for carrying them out?
• Who will be responsible for performing such tasks? (Rather than individuals, what must be
identified here are organizations or departments.)
• Who will be in charge of the overall coordination of the logistical system?
• What resources are needed? How, when, and where can they be procured?
• What alternative actions can be implemented if the system is somehow disrupted?
After these questions have been answered satisfactorily, we must draw up a list of
preparatory activities. The more time and effort we invest in such activities, the greater the
return in terms of our knowledge of the theater of operations, our weaknesses and those of
our partners, eventual needs, and alternative solutions depending on different scenarios.
Preparatory activities must include the following
Assessing the vulnerability of key infrastructure- The goal is to identify the strengths and
weaknesses of public works and strategic structures of the country or region—highways,
water supply systems, schools, hospitals—as well as alternative actions that may be
required should the infrastructure collapse.
• Analyzing the historical meteorological records of the country or region to determine the
impact that severe weather might have on the capacity of the transport system at different
times of the year
Determining the availability of strategic resources for logistical support- These resources
are constantly changing, so they must be reviewed frequently to keep the information as
up-to-date as possible. Taking into account availability of key supplies needed
• Assessing potential sites for logistic bases, supply distribution centers, and fuel
distribution points—including public and private facilities, large storage
complexes, factories, and other facilities that might be adapted to these
• Reviewing government policies, plans, and preparations—It is very important for
international agencies and nongovernmental organizations to know the
government’s emergency response policies and plans
• Procurement is the process of acquiring goods and services by
purchasing, renting, or leasing
• The purpose of the procurement process is to make sure that the
organizations involved in relief management have the resources
needed to meet identified needs.
• This in turn requires identifying the sources of those goods and
services and the way in which they will be acquired.
• Transport is the means whereby supplies reach the places where they
• A transport strategy must not only take into account the means of
transport but also the actual possibilities of getting supplies from point
A to B, as well as alternatives for the prompt, safe delivery of relief
• Transportation of in-kind goods is important
• Movement of personnel to field of operation is equally important.
Warehousing and distribution
• Storage-The purpose of storage is to protect the emergency supplies in
an organized, systematic fashion until they can be delivered to their
ultimate recipients. It must also take into account reserve supplies, or
stockpiles, for future or unforeseen needs.
• Distribution- The chief goal of the logistics chain in relief operations
is delivering aid to the people affected by a disaster, or at least to the
organizations entrusted with managing emergency supplies, in a way
that is proportional to existing needs, fair, and properly controlled to
prevent abuses or waste.
Putting it all together
• It is important to underscore the fact that all of the above components
are closely linked.
• The failure or ineffective functioning of any of the links in the chain
will affect overall performance. For instance, if the transport of a load
of supplies has been organized correctly, but upon arrival it turns out
that no provisions were made for storage, the efficiency of the
transport effort will have been to no avail.
• Alternatively, if there are enough resources to cover the needs of an
affected area, but no transport to take them where they are needed, the
success of the other efforts will be, for all practical purposes, moot,
because they were not properly synchronized with the transport
Balancing efficiency and responsiveness
• Logistics is all about balancing efficiency and responsiveness, it is
only that decisions behind that differs in humanitarian logistics as
compared to commercial supply chains.
• In commercial supply chains, the choice of being either responsiveness
or efficiency is determined by the organization’s choice of competitive
strategy/ customer choice.
• However, in humanitarian supply chains, the choice is determined by
the criticality of the requirement in relation to the suffering of
• In most cases, especially in sudden onset disaster, humanitarian
logistics is required to move goods and services at all costs to alleviate
the suffering of beneficiaries. This implies that, humanitarian logistics
Phases of Supply chain Disaster response
There are three phases if logistics response to disaster
• Phase 1- Pre-disaster/Preparedness phase
• Phase 2-Operation/Response phase
• Phase 3- Post Disaster phase
Phase 1- Pre-disaster/Preparedness phase
• In the pre-disaster response phase or the preparedness phase, the
historical profile of the disaster and its geographical information is
being collected and analysed for the beneficiaries
• Past data regarding the suppliers, logistics providers and donors are
noted down and a database is being prepared.
• Preparedness phase defines the responsiveness of the relief activities.
• Prepositioning is key:This refers to the strategic deployment and
stationing of inventory, facilities and putting in place transport
decisions in anticipating of a disaster to improve the response and
efficiency of the relief network (Simchi-Levi et al 2008).
• Pre-positioning happen before the disaster occurs in case of sudden
• Pre-positioning involves setting up of facilities and warehouses in
areas close to where the disaster is anticipated.
• It also involves moving relief equipment and inventories that will be
used during disaster response. It also go beyond facilities, materials
and equipment and take into consideration mobilizing funding to be
used during disaster response well in advance.
• So pre-position requires setting aside finances that will be used.
Balcik et al (2008), also identified pre-positioning as improving the
cost effectiveness and the overall responsiveness of the relief supply
chain and it is commonly used in humanitarian supply chains.
• In other words, this is the process of mobilizing the resources and pre-
assembling the resources in anticipation of a disaster.
During Preparedness phase:
• Determine who is supposed to do what in the context of supply chain:
assessing the capacity of personnel
• Carry out frequent meetings and coordination activities to decide and
even rehearse what is to be done before, during, and after an
• Carry out inventory management plan
• Exchange information about resources that may be useful in the event
of an emergency, whether the resources are in the hands of
participating organizations or come from another source
Phase 2- Operation/Response Phase
• In the operation phase, demand and stock available have to be
reconciled in order to get a clear idea about the stock details. The stock
details include both stock in-transit and stock in-warehouses. The cost
of each operation has to be tracked to balance the needs and the
• The actual distribution plan must be effectively and efficiently
• It is important in this phase to develop systems that are reliable.
• Monitoring key logistics performance indicators e.g cost, delivery lead
times, agility, coordination with other cooperating partners etc
Phase 3: Post Disaster Phase
• Alternatively called the withdrawal phase
• In the post operation phase, accountability of the donations has to be
done to maintain the transparency in the system. Also, the
preparedness of the relief operation has to be analysed to see how
quick it was. The loss and damage has to be registered for
accountability and claims.
• The withdrawal plan must be already in place to facilitate the
movement of goods, people and services from field of operations
• Evaluating the logistics response ( key performance indicators)
• Document lessons learnt
General Challenges of Humanitarian Logistics
In understanding the challenges, it may be critical to understand the characteristics of humanitarian
logistics as put forward by Balcik and Beamon (2008: 102) and these are:
o Unpredictability of demand , in terms of timing, location, type and size.
o Suddenness of occurrence.
o High stakes associated with the timeliness of deliveries.
o Lack of resources eg. people, technology, transportation etc
o Lack of collaboration among different organisations.
Humanitarian organisations may involve UN agencies, the Governmental Organisations (Military) ,
donors and other private commercial players. They are different in sizes, operational policies and
mandate. Failure to leverage on each other ‘s comparative advantages may spell disaster for
humanitarian organisations eg. failure to use fedex , UPS and DHL in logistics.
o Inadequate training.
oLow recognition of the strategic role of logistics.eg. In Haiti, 12
January 2010 UN Office of the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs
cited lack of logistics and transport as key constraints for delivery of
oLack of standards.
oEarmarking of funds- donors dictate how the funds are going to be
used, not beneficiaries.
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to partneships: case study research on humanitarian logistics.
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chain relationship:Lessons from leading practitioners. Journal of
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oSpens, K and Kovacs, G., 2009. Identifying challenges in humanitarian
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