Hundreds of millions of people are affected by disasters each year and that number of worldwide natural and man-made disasters is increasing. Improving the nature of logistics and supply chain management for humanitarian aid are essential for responders to save human lives. In these situations, demand can fluctuate greatly and is often uncertain. Coordination of supply chains between organizations and management of supplies for humanitarian needs are increasingly needed and must be put in place effectively to save more lives. This paper will define and identify some unique characteristics of disaster relief supply chains as well as its basic process while highlighting some of the ideas used by the American Red Cross and other relief aid agencies.
The Fritz Institute offers a definition used by a broad range of humanitarian organizations of humanitarian supply chains as:
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. The function encompasses a range of activities, including preparedness, planning, procurement, transport, warehousing, tracking and tracing, customs and clearance. (Thomas, 2005).
The term humanitarian logistics is often used interchangeably with humanitarian supply chain and it is implied in this definition. Life-saving defines humanitarian supply chains whereas as profit is the defining factor for commercial ones.
CAUSES OF HUMANITARIAN SUPPLY CHAINS
Wherever a disaster occurs and whenever humans are involved, a disaster management is put into place using a humanitarian supply chain. The emergence of this style of supply chain is due to two types of disasters: natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes and man-made ones such as civil unrest and war. In both situations, the supply chain of goods is disrupted and this cascades throughout the chain. Different types of relief situations need to be managed in different ways. Some demand a greater effort in terms of knowledge and cost because of the suddenness of the occurrence and where it is located.
The logistical aspects of the supply chain depend on the type of disaster and the speed of its onset. For example, because natural disasters such as earthquakes and tornados happen very suddenly, the logistics for the resulting crisis relief becomes more relevant. This is usually because infrastructure to distribute supplies has been weakened. On the other hand, if the speed of the disaster takes place over more time such as with a drought or refugee settlement, a rapid response becomes less important because the infrastructure has primarily remained intact to those who need it the most. Also, in the event of a man-made disaster such as a conflict situation, the relief supply chain has a higher likelihood of...