Humanitarian Logistics

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1. Background of the Study

Emergencies and disasters place exceptional demands on humanitarian logistics and calls for fast , agile and quick response to alleviate human lives. Deficiencies in the flow of supplies may result in dire consequences. As a result of continuous human and man-made disasters logistics has now become an important factor in humanitarian aid operations, to the “extent that logistics efforts account for 80 percent of disaster relief” (Trunick, 2005).

Humanitarian logistics encompasses a ranges of complicated activities as compared to commercial logistics, it ranges from preparedness, planning, procurement, transport, warehousing, tracking and tracing , customs clearance, communications, reporting , accountability , analyzing and managing complex information. The scope of procurement in a humanitarian situation is too wide; from sourcing medicals, equipment and transport, food, shelter and clothing, water and sanitation.

Zimbabwe is still in transition due to the complex and severe crises experienced over the last ten years, facing acute emergencies including droughts, floods, cholera, measles, typhoid , murambatsvina , the silent but devastating HIV and AIDS epidemic and the depleted capacity for basic social services. The number of NGO’s operating in Zimbabwe has increased as a result and humanitarian logistics is now taking a centre stage to ensure the effectiveness of all the interventions in disaster risk reductions considering that 80% of relief work is logistics .The country experienced a sharp economic decline from 2000 to 2010 and this impacted heavily on humanitarian logistics in its effort to quickly respond to emergencies.

Therefore, just as the science of logistics and supply chain management has become critically important for private sector logistics, so too it is becoming more important for humanitarian with the objectives of serving human lives. Humanitarian logistics skills remain underdeveloped, although it gained a few mileage both in academic and in practice after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. The Impact of the Tsunami was devastating – claiming the lives of over 200,000 people and leaving millions homeless . The media scrutiny was so intense highlighting some of the problems led to loss of so many lives and there were world wide outcries for improved logistics in humanitarian relief operations. However hundreds of people continue losing lives as a result of delays in humanitarian aid ranging from medicines, food, shelter, water and environmental health, and other basic human rights requirements

Against this background humanitarian logistics face enormous challenges in its effort to ensure aid reaches recipients. These challenges range from transporting sufficient essential supplies to affected areas in order to support basic living needs for those trapped. In many less developed countries, the physical and economic infrastructure my be a serious barrier to effective relief logistics, shortage of warehousing space, difficulties with commodity handling and packaging. The roads are often in poor condition, bridge weights are a major obstacle and sometimes become impassable, huge amounts of unrequested items arriving some inappropriate and unnecessary without packing lists or labels. Warehouses rapidly gets overwhelmed and in most cases goods arrive at the disaster area at multiple sites in an uncoordinated way without prior notice unsorted and unclassified . Often humanitarian emergencies takes place in areas far from main sources of supply. Managing and coordinating a distribution process is one of the tantamount task logisticians face during a relief operation.

Since logistics handles tracking of goods through the supply chain it is often the focal point of information gathering used to provide post event learning. Logistics data reflects all aspects of execution, from the effectiveness of suppliers and transportation...
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