Objectives and Activities of Humanitarian Organisations

Disaster management is often described as a process composed of several stages, even though there is disagreement among authors as to the structure and nomenclature of the stages. However, for the most part, the literature concurs on the existence of the following phases:
• Mitigation;
• Preparation;
• Response;
• Reconstruction.

These four phases constitute the disaster management cycle. With the focus on logistics and supply chain management, the process that involves logisticians mainly concerns the preparation, response and reconstruction; together these constitute humanitarian logistics stream. The mitigation phase refers to laws and mechanisms that reduce social vulnerability. These are issues that relate to the responsibilities of governments and do not involve the direct participation of logisticians.

The preparation phase refers to various operations that occur during the period before a disaster strikes. This phase incorporates the strategies put into place that allow the implementation of a successful operational response. This phase is crucial because it is the one in which the physical network design, information and communications technology systems, and the bases for collaboration are developed.

The aim of this stage is to avoid the gravest possible consequences of a disaster. This phase also incorporates the efforts that are made between disasters in learning and adapting from past experiences so as to meet new challenges. The response phase refers to the various operations that are instantly implemented after a disaster occurs. This phase has two main objectives; they are consecutive and constitute two sub phases:

• The first objective is to immediately respond by activating the ‗‗silent network‘‘ or ‗‗temporary networks,‘‘; this is the immediate- response sub-phase;
• The second objective is to restore in the shortest time possible the basic services and delivery of goods to the highest possible number of beneficiaries; this is the restore sub-phase. In the response stage, coordination and collaboration among all the actors involved in the humanitarian emergency deserve particular attention. Connections to feasible donors, suppliers, NGOs, and other partners are made in the first phase, but they are not activated until the catastrophic event takes place. Then, all the actors involved operate as quickly as possible: at the start, speed—at any cost—is of the essence, and the first 72 hours are crucial.

The reconstruction phase refers to different operations in the aftermath of a disaster. It involves rehabilitation, and this phase aims to address the problem from a long-term perspective. The effects of a disaster can continue for a long period of time, and they have severe consequences on the affected population. In addition, disasters can also have long-term effects on the management of companies. For example, immediately after a disaster, transportation companies may undergo a modal shift from road to rail that prevails long after the occurrence of the disaster.

With regard to humanitarian logistics stream, it is interesting that the transition between the stages involves the shift in focus from speed to cost reduction in terms of operational performance. Each stage of the process has a specific objective that can be achieved through the application of two supply chain principles: agility and leanness.

Agility is usually defined as the ability to respond to unexpected changes when an unpredictable demand is combined with short lead times. Leanness usually refers to doing more and better with less when demand is relatively stable and predictable. Briefly, while agility focuses on effectiveness and speed, leanness focuses on efficiency and cost saving

Activities of Humanitarian organisations include:

  • Rescuing and evacuation
  • Endangered area control
  • Supply
  • Mitigation
  • Reconstruction
  • Sanitation
  • Health care
  • Building and recovering infrastructure
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