Delivering More Effective Disaster Relief Through Technology-Enabled Humanitarian Logistics

Frank Omare

Passion-inspired thinking is solving complex problems on a global scale, such as bringing scale and speed to disaster relief. Although logistics has mostly been used in commercial supply chains, one type – humanitarian logistics – is also important in disaster-relief operations.

As a global society, we are all tasked with protecting the most vulnerable of our people and resources. Humanitarian logistics services are becoming more critical in response to the rising levels and severity of climate change-related humanitarian crises.

Here are some interesting facts:

  • 22 million people are displaced annually by climate or weather-related disasters, according to the UN.
  • The Paris Agreement of 2016 sets a global framework for limiting global warming to well below 2oC and with a target to limit it to 1.5o. It is widely accepted that dramatic cuts in carbon emissions are needed to meet these goals (emissions are still rising in several major economies).
  • The poorest countries contribute the least to global emissions but are most likely to suffer the impacts of climate change.
  • A 2oC warmer world could cause 190 million people to experience levels of vulnerability to food insecurity greater than today; a 4oC warmer world could impact 1.9 billion (the number does not simply double for a 2oC  warmer world).
  • 32x more people are expected to be displaced from climate-related hazards than other geophysical hazards such as earthquakes.

There is clearly an increased level of risk to the well-being of vulnerable people posed by the effects of climate change. This creates pressure to make providing disaster relief faster and more efficient.

Cloud solutions combined with a global network can be used to enhance collaboration between humanitarian stakeholders (non-governmental organizations, government agencies, etc.), interagency procurement, and pre-qualified suppliers for disaster relief goods and services. Pre-qualified suppliers can be matched with emergency disaster relief needs using artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Contracts or catalogs for pre-qualified suppliers can be hosted on the network for standard, repeatable requests and promoted using automated workflows. Discovery functionality could be used to source suppliers for non-standard, ad hoc relief requests.

Cloud solutions and network technology used in this way enable:

  1. Collaboration between stakeholders (NGOs, emergency services, interagency procurement) and suppliers
  1. Regional disaster resilience/relief agencies to match supply with demand more effectively
  1. Value for money (cost, response time, the right level of aid at the point of need)
  1. Better solutions to the current practices of emails, calls, etc.
  1. Greater levels of transparency of goods/services ordered (track and trace)
  1. Real-time insights into the capabilities of suppliers in disaster impact zones

Tackling climate change is going to be harder than we expect. Most of the world’s nations recognize the need for coordinated, global action on environmental issues. In the meantime, we must ensure we have the means to deploy disaster relief support faster and more efficiently than before. It is estimated that 200 million people could be affected by climate change by 2050. Whether or not this is true, technology can enable humanitarian logistics to cope with future demand and to maintain both the quality of life and dignity of displaced people.

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Frank Omare

About Frank Omare

Frank Omare brings over 20 years of combined senior line management and "Big 4" consulting experience in procurement and supply chain. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (FCIPS). Frank has a proven track record of developing transformational change programs and engaging the hearts and minds of people at all levels in the organization. With SAP Ariba, which offers the world’s largest cloud-based network for business commerce, Frank leverages his experience to collaborate with customers to help them to understand the benefits of leading-edge solutions that address complex business issues. Going beyond the financial benefits, Frank's work helps customers understand the value of digital transformation and to prioritize sustainability as part of their organization’s values.