Providing Logistics Support to a Team of International Humanitarian and Disaster Relief (H&DR) Providers

By SOLE - The International Society of Logistics

Part of Global Logistics For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Once your company becomes comfortable with its global logistics operations, it is highly likely that at some point in time you may be asked to provide humanitarian and disaster relief logistics support services. Your options could be donating funds, providing needed material, or the more complex task of providing logistics personnel in direct support of the disaster relief effort.

Donating funds is relatively easy, as there are many international relief organizations (including United Nation agencies) that set up accounts for a specific disaster relief operation. Donating cash is usually preferred by those running the disaster relief operation, as it enables them to procure exactly what is needed at each phase of the operation, often using local vendors to help stimulate the affect country’s economy at a time it is needed the most.

Donating material becomes more complicated. First, a relief organization that has been identified as part of the specific disaster relief effort must approve the material you wish to donate. You are then usually responsible for the procurement and shipment of the goods into the affected country, to include being able to manage all customs tariffs, fees, and other cross-border requirements. You also have to provide documentation — to both the affected country government and the receiving aid organization — of having met applicable quality assurance requirements.

Providing H&DR logistics services in the affected country is a third option; but one that cannot be undertaken without a significant amount of preparation and corporate commitment. A major challenge during international relief efforts can be workers who lack training, have little experience in operating in the extreme weather and other severe conditions that are often present, or lack the necessary cultural sensitivity. Specific protocols and procedures must be in place, connecting your personnel to the international response community, before attempting this type of commitment.

The United Nations and its many agencies has recognized the value that businesses of all sizes can bring to international relief efforts. It has established initiatives to assist businesses and business associations in using existing technology networks to create platforms for disaster risk reduction, emergency preparedness, and response and recovery.

No matter how prepared your logistics team may be domestically, operating as part of an international relief effort in remote and unstable environments requires a level of individual and corporate commitment that offers as much risk as reward.