Role of Logistics and Supply Chain Management in humanitarian organisations

Humanitarian supply chain is the process used by not-for-profit or donor funded organizations to plan, implement, control the efficiency, cost effective flow and storage of goods and materials as well as related material, from the point of origin to the point of consumption for the purpose of alleviating the suffering of the most vulnerable and most at risk people. The function encompasses a range of activities, including preparedness, planning, procurement, transporting, warehousing, tracking and tracing and custom clearance

Humanitarian supply chain involves components such as procurement, transportation, warehousing, inventory management, tracing and tracking, bidding and reserve bidding, reporting and accountability to address emergency needs. It involves flow of relief from the
donor to the beneficiaries. There is need to coordinate and manage disaster supply chain to ensure that humanitarian organizations gain from the benefits of having a supply chain system in place. The humanitarian supply chain would ensure that even in times of emergency, the humanitarian organizations receive value for money in procurement of goods and services.

Humanitarian organizations that have an effective SCM system in place benefit from transparency – all phases in the procurement process are fair and accurately documented. This contributes to the establishment of sound and reliable business relations with suppliers; accountability – accountability to donors who may require certain rules to be followed when using the money they have provided. This ensures that expenses incurred are accepted by the donor and no funds are disallowed; efficiency and cost effectiveness – meeting the six rights of supply; right price, right time, right quantity, right quality, delivery to the right places and from the right source/supplier. This has an impact on the operations of the organization and on the beneficiary.

When disaster strikes, relief organizations respond by delivering aid to those in need, quickly and effectively. Their supply chains must be both fast and agile, responding to sudden disasters. A disaster response operation involves trade-off of speed, cost and accuracy with regard to the type of goods that are delivered and the quantities. Operations can be in many challenging places, which the corporate sector and businesses shun. Creating and implementing complicated logistic solutions and dealing with the final leg between the final distribution centre and the beneficiary or client is a challenge to many relief organizations

Humanitarian operation is divided into two; development and emergency. The NGOs operate in either the development sector or emergency sector. Some, however operate in both sectors by having a department that deals in development and one that deals in emergency. The development sector includes activities that take place over a long period of time (longer than one year) while emergency sector deal with short term activities mainly during disasters. Reaching displaced people in a humanitarian emergency is heavily dependent on the effectiveness of a supply chain. An effective disaster response supply chain is modeled into three stages preparedness, response and recovery. The Fritz Institute defines humanitarian logistics 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 point of origin to the point of consumption for alleviating the suffering of vulnerable people. The function encompasses a range of activities, including preparedness, planning, procurement, transport, warehousing, tracking and tracing and custom clearance

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