Humanitarian Logistics

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Humanitarian logistics is a branch of logistics which specializes in organizing the delivery and warehousing of supplies during natural disasters or complex emergencies to the affected area and people. Although they have been mostly utilized in commercial supply chain, logistics is one of the most important tools now in disaster relief operations. Type and quantity of the resources, way of procurement and storage of the supplies, tools of tracking and means transportation to the stricken area, specialization of teams participating in the operation and plan of cooperation between these teams, are some important issues that are connected directly to humanitarian logistics.

Developing logistics warehousing to store all essential goods is one of the tools utilized in disaster response planning. Warehouses should be designed by taking precautions for contamination or waste of materials and organized in order to facilitate deliveries to the desired area at the desired time and quantities. Successful humanitarian operations also presuppose that distribution centers are located in the correct area, which is obviously near the region that tends to be hit by a disaster and can be indicated through software or mathematical models. The responsible authorities aim at maximization of response and minimization of distribution time, money spent and number of distribution centers. Coordination of the delivery of goods, organization of teams, supplies and equipment movement is realized by mobilization centers, which are located near the affected region. A way of taking precautions before a disaster occurs, is to organize emergency response plans which will help preparation and consequently mobilization in the time of the disaster.

A logistical technique which can improve responsiveness is inventory pre-positioning. This technique is used for estimating item quantities required according to specific safety stock levels and order frequency, or for searching optimal locations for warehouses using facility location. Logistics is one of the major tools of disaster preparedness, among surveillance, rehearsal, warning, and hazard analysis. Besides, success and performance in humanitarian relief chains is very difficult to measure because of some distinct characteristics that humanitarian operations have, such as very unpredictable demand, difficulty to obtain data from operations, unpredictable working environment, lack of incentive for measurement(due to their non-profit character), very short lead time and unknown variables, like geography, political situation or weather.

Technology is a key factor to achieve better results in disaster logistics. Implementing up-to-date information or tracking systems and using humanitarian logistics software which can provide real-time supply chain information, organizations can enhance decision making, increase the quickness of the relief operations and achieve better coordination of the relief effort. Biometrics for identifying persons or unauthorized substances, wireless telecommunications, media technology for promoting donations, and medical technologies are some more aspects of technology applied in humanitarian operations.


  • Edgar E. Blanco, Jarrod Goentzel. (2006). "Humanitarian supply chains: A Review" (PDF). 
  • Qamar Iqbal, Kristin Mehler and Mehmet Bayram Yildirim (2007). "Comparison of disaster logistics planning and execution for 2005 hurricane season" (PDF). 
  • Margaret O'Leary, 2004. Measuring disaster preparedness: a practical guide to indicator, iUniverse, ISBN 978-0-595-53170-7
  • Kevin Cahill, 2005, Technology for humanitarian action, Fordham Univ Press, ISBN 978-0-8232-2394-7
  • Anup Roop Akkihal. (2006). "Inventory pre-positioning for humanitarian operations" (PDF). 
  • Anne Leslie Davidson (2006). "Key performance indicators in humanitarian logistics" (PDF). 
  • Martin Christopher and Peter Tatham, 2011, Humanitarian Logistics: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing for and Responding to Disasters, Kogan Page, ISBN 0749462469, ISBN 978-0749462468

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