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Proceedings of the 2009 Humanitarian Logistics Conference

2009 ProceedingsCompiled by: Jessica L. Heier Stamm and Monica C. Villarreal

Conference Co-chairs: Özlem Ergun, Pinar Keskinocak, and Julie Swann

Program Committee: Barbara Christopher, Anita Race, Harry Sharp, and Monica Villarreal

These proceedings are intended to summarize and convey the information presented at the 2009 Humanitarian Logistics Conference. The information presented herein does not constitute an official recommendation for particular scenarios arising in practice.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0848420. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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Table of Contents

Section 1 About This Event
Section 2 Executive Summary
Section 3 Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Post-Disaster Operations
Section 4 Long Term Development and Humanitarian Aid
Section 5 Intra- and Inter-organizational Collaboration in Disaster Planning and Long Term Humanitarian Aid
Section 6 Plenary - The United Nations World Food Programme
Section 7 Lunch Table Discussion Summaries
Section 8 Poster Session
Section 9 Workshops
Section 10 Conclusion

Section 1: About This Event

Natural and man-made disasters swept through various parts of the world and received much attention over the past decade. Many parts of the world also suffer from the lack of basic necessities, including shelter, water, food, education, access to basic health care, and safety, identified in "humanity's top 10 problems over the next 50 years."1 The 2009 Humanitarian Logistics Conference, held February 19 – 20 at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, focused on topics relevant to planning, preparing, and responding to disasters, long term development, and health efforts.

Given the complexity of the problems faced, the main objectives of the conference were to:

The conference brought many stakeholders together for shared learning and goal-setting relevant to some of the world's most pressing problems. This document summarizes the major themes and outcomes of the conference, which was attended by over 180 people from academic, governmental, corporate, and non-governmental organizations.

The 2009 Humanitarian Logistics Conference (HumLog'09) was co-chaired by Drs. Özlem Ergun, Pinar Keskinocak, and Julie Swann, co-directors of the Research Center for Humanitarian Logistics at Georgia Tech. The vision of the research center is "to improve humanitarian logistics (including short or long term, manmade or natural disasters) and ultimately the human condition by system transformations through education, outreach, projects, and research."2 Since its establishment in 2007, the center has built a broad network of stakeholders in humanitarian logistics worldwide. Barbara Christopher, Anita Race, Harry Sharp, and Monica Villarreal served on the conference committee. HumLog'09 was supported in part by the National Science Foundation, the Georgia Tech College of Engineering Focused Research Program, the Harold R. and Mary Anne Nash Junior Faculty Endowment Fund, the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, the Georgia Tech Supply Chain and Logistics Institute, and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.

To access presentation slides, speaker biographies, and other conference information, please visit the conference website at

Section 2: Executive Summary

The 2009 Humanitarian Logistics Conference at the Georgia Institute of Technology brought together humanitarian practitioners and researchers from around the world. Non-governmental organizations, government agencies, private companies, and academic institutions were represented. In addition to panel discussions highlighting major themes in this field, skillbuilding workshops and poster sessions allowed participants to interact with one another and share ideas to continue to improve their own organization's efforts. The conference proved valuable to attendees: more than 90 percent indicated that they would recommend the conference to a colleague and that they would attend a similar conference in the future.

The conference themes focused on disaster planning and response, long term development, and collaboration within and between organizations. There were several messages for participants going forward from the conference.

These messages have been gleaned from the conference sessions and discussions, and further details are discussed in these proceedings. The remainder of this document is organized as follows. Sections 3 – 5 contain summaries for the panel sessions, Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Post-Disaster Operations; Long Term Development and Humanitarian Aid; and Intra- and Inter-organizational Collaboration in Disaster Planning and Long Term Humanitarian Aid, respectively. A summary of the plenary talk, which focused on World Food Programme operations, is given in Section 6. The outcomes of focused lunch discussion groups are highlighted in Section 7, while Section 8 describes the conference's poster session. Section 9 contains information about the interactive workshop sessions. Concluding remarks and directions for future work are presented in Section 10.

Section 3: Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Post-Disaster Operations

Session Presenters:

Moderator: Nancy Brockway, Chief Emergency Services Officer, Metropolitan Atlanta Chapter of the American Red Cross

The opening panel of the conference focused on challenges and successes in disaster preparedness, response, and post-disaster operations. Panelists represented the perspectives of government agencies, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and academia, with interests both domestic and international.

William Smith of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) talked about logistics transformation at FEMA post-Hurricane Katrina. FEMA is the national agency charged with managing emergency events of all types nationwide.

The organization has undergone substantial change in recent years. The transformation includes a redefinition of FEMA's logistics management function, mission, and focus. FEMA's role as the national logistics coordinator during any type of emergency has been more clearly defined. The agency is changing logistics business practices towards a strategic capability focus, with continuous assessment and process improvement. There is also improved collaboration with local and state governments, extensive pre-incident planning, and close partnerships with NGOs and private sector. FEMA's strategy focuses on its people, customers, systems, and processes as enablers to face their current challenges.

Rosemary Parnell highlighted the breadth of services provided by the American Red Cross. The organization's mission includes disaster response, blood services, health and safety education, services to the armed forces, and international services. Parnell discussed the logistics system that enables the agency to conduct these activities.

Two of the primary responsibilities of the American Red Cross in responding to a domestic disaster are feeding and sheltering. The agency is capable of giving shelter to five hundred thousand individuals, deploying one million meals within 72 hours sustained for 30 days, and mobilizing a staff of four thousand volunteers. National Headquarters procures and replenishes disaster supplies, while the Disaster Relief Operation (DRO) procures for a particular disaster. Additionally, in-kind donations come from private industry, individuals and governments. The DRO ensures donations are used properly and donors are recognized. Inventory is managed in the more than 1.2 million square feet of warehouse space. Trailers are also used for prepositioning supplies in hurricane zones. Parnell also discussed performance metrics that the agency uses to track and improve its efforts. Measures used by the American Red Cross include a 24 hour window from requisition to supply delivery and keeping supply losses below two percent.

Waffle House Restaurants has been recognized as an outstanding disaster responder, together with companies like Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Lowe's. Bert Thornton described why the restaurant company has earned this recognition. Thornton explained that even if it is easier for companies and businesses to close and wait for the situation to stabilize after a disaster such as a hurricane strikes, there is an obligation to provide assistance to the customers and associates during the difficult times. "Nothing good comes from a closed Waffle House," he said.

Waffle House Restaurants, with locations in states within the hurricane belt such as Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas, has a program for hurricane response that includes extensive hurricane preparation activities. These include preparation meetings, best-practices documentation and process manuals, and staff and equipment preparedness activities. This preparation supports direct response in the field in the event of a hurricane. In fact, after Hurricane Katrina, Waffle House teams were among the first delivering relief, and among the few businesses opened providing their services to the community, volunteers, and military personnel.

CARE International has offices in countries worldwide, and the organization's mission is to help people improve their lives by providing economic opportunities, strengthening self-help capacity, influencing policy, and delivering relief in emergencies. David Gazashvili talked about CARE's work and the ways that the agency measures their performance.

The CARE strategy for disaster relief includes building local capacities, achieving adequate levels of readiness, and working together with partners. The organization measures performance in several ways. Timeliness of response, quality, and accountability are important metrics. In addition, the organization focuses on competence in CARE's core sectors, which are food, shelter, water and sanitation.

Roland Tomasini is the research group leader of the INSEAD Social Innovation Center's Humanitarian Logistics Research Group. The primary focus of this group is to develop a science of humanitarian logistics that facilitates learning between the private sector and humanitarian organizations.

Tomasini discussed humanitarian supply chains and their challenges. These challenges are numerous. Among them are ambiguous objectives since is difficult to assess and integrate the efforts of different stakeholders; limited resources with high staff turnover; limited, damaged or inexistent infrastructure; and reactivity of the funding mechanisms. In addition, humanitarian supply chains face high uncertainty with changes in supply and demand. They operate under great urgency and high levels of intensity, often in politicized environments. The INSEAD Social Innovation Centre brings together academic expertise to develop solutions that respond to these challenges.

General Conclusions

Section 4: Long Term Development and Humanitarian Aid

Session Presenters:

Moderator: Michael Best, Assistant Professor, Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and School of Interactive Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology

The second conference panel focused on long term development, including the relationship between immediate disaster response and continuing development efforts. Common themes that emerged during the discussion included the importance of development efforts in reducing vulnerability, and thus some of the need for future relief efforts, as well as the notion that it is never too early to begin development efforts even while immediate response is still underway.

Bob Emrey of USAID discussed the agency's mission in development and aid. USAID is the government agency charged with providing humanitarian relief on behalf of the American people. Its scope includes improving emergency preparedness and disaster mitigation; providing emergency assistance in the form of personnel, commodities, and funding; and protecting and increasing the food security of vulnerable populations.

Emrey described the long term development efforts of USAID in Liberia, a country in which the first lasting peace in two decades was established in 2003. One million people had been displaced and there were over 250,000 casualties in the unrest. The country is currently transitioning from disaster relief to long term development.

Logistics plays a key role in helping the USAID meet significant challenges in response and development in the near future. The Millennium Development Goals seek substantial reduction of child mortality, improvement in maternal health, and reduction of HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB, and other diseases. Developing and delivering the medical products, vaccines, and technologies needed to achieve these goals requires logistics expertise.

The International Medical Corps is a nonprofit humanitarian organization focused on health care training, relief, and development efforts worldwide. One of the agency's chief objectives is to increase local capabilities to respond to local needs. William Hyde's discussion focused on recent trends in humanitarian aid and development that have made this goal increasingly important.

In recent years, there has been a disturbing increase in the number of societies identified as vulnerable. With only partial recovery in many areas, agencies continue to find more societies in need. An old pattern of short-term relief efforts followed by clear turnover to local people has been replaced with drawn-out efforts without a clear end. Struggle exists between relief and development efforts, especially in the areas of developing national capacity and in identifying a culturally-appropriate response.

Hyde discussed three potential solutions that humanitarian agencies have to mitigate these trends: get larger, get smarter, or grow national capacity. He described getting larger as the last choice, emphasizing that there are already duplications and inefficiencies in effort. Getting smarter is part of the answer, but to do this several challenges must be overcome. Among these are the fact that existing supply chain management software is often proprietary, without support for translation across agencies and applications. In addition, the sector is getting better at stove piping, but needs logistics software packages that talk to each other and help agencies meet individual donor requirements. Desirable features of such solutions include an on-location allcommodities database for agencies, with common item descriptions and identification codes, as well as commodities packaging and other response components that fit cultural norms. Hyde concluded by reiterating that the growth of national capacity to address humanitarian crises is the most important solution to prevent or meet the increasing need for assistance.

Santosh Vempala is a Distinguished Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Algorithms and Randomness Center (ARC) at Georgia Tech. His research interests are in algorithms, randomness and geometry and their applications. Since 2007, he has been studying how computers can create sustainable societal benefits. He co-taught "Computing for Good" in 2008 and has four ongoing projects in this space: a scalable blood monitoring system for developing countries, a homeless housing occupancy system for Atlanta, a partnership with Operation P.E.A.C.E., an after school program in the old fourth ward, and a promising new protocol for mobile wireless networks. His comments focused on the blood monitoring system.

Vempala described the development of a web-based monitoring system for blood safety. The challenges that arose in the project included designing a system that could be used with low bandwidth, was accessible to individuals with limited training, and that could be applied in many cultural settings. The system was developed by Georgia Tech graduate students and faculty and then tested in Zambia. On January 1, 2009, the system was deployed in all 14 PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) countries and the World Health Organization plans to use the tool for worldwide blood safety reporting.

This project led to other research questions about matching scarce resources with demand efficiently and fairly. Vempala emphasized that computing for developing regions leads to important research directions to address resource scarcity and other new constraints. Much work remains to be done to ensure that the benefits of computing contribute to development efforts.

Nathaniel Hupert is an Associate Professor of Public Health and Medicine at Cornell University's Weill Medical College and Associate Attending Physician at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, and is the director of the new Preparedness Modeling Initiative for the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Preparedness (CDC). The scope of the CDC Preparedness Modeling Initiative is very broad and includes questions such as hurricane path prediction, vector biology, drug resistance, vaccine effectiveness, chemical or radionuclide attack preparedness, and models to inform planning and response for other natural and man-made events.

Hupert's discussion focused on the role of modeling in preparedness and the need to connect modelers to the end users of those models. Explaining that preparedness experts often think that modelers want to take away their jobs, he discussed the steps to creating models that will be useful in practice. The first step does not involve a computer, but instead reaching out to the end users. This also helps ensure that the model is based on a real decision that practitioners need to make: "Every decision is based on a model, but not every model is based on a decision." Hupert explained that modeling enables decision makers to gain insights into the mechanisms at work in a particular scenario and to focus their thinking, but that the model alone does not give the answer.

General Conclusions

Section 5: Intra- and Inter-organizational Collaboration in Disaster Planning and Long Term Humanitarian Aid

Session Presenters:

Moderator: Leigh Fitzpatrick McCook, Division Chief, Socio-Technical System Division, Information Technology and Telecommunications Laboratory, GTRI

The final panel emphasized opportunities and challenges in fostering intra- and interorganizational collaboration, both for disaster planning and long term humanitarian scenarios.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is the United Nation's focal point for civil-military coordination in humanitarian operations. The agency's mission is to mobilize and coordinate the efforts of national and international stakeholders to provide effective humanitarian response. Michael Marx discussed how civil-military coordination relates to OCHA's mission and today's global environment.

Marx pointed out that there are over 25 million people in need of assistance today due to conflicts, and many more due to natural disasters. There are many international and national key actors in disaster response, from the Red Cross, UN agencies, and international NGO's to the national military, local businesses, and the affected population. Humanitarian civil-military coordination must protect and promote humanitarian principles, avoid competition, minimize inconsistency, and, when appropriate, pursue common goals. The military is playing an increased role in relief operations, and the humanitarian community is increasingly accepting of an appropriate military role in assistance operations. The military has several advantages, including proximity, military assets and technologies, and understanding of local characteristics. OCHA is seeking to engage with the U.S. military, which in particular can fundamentally change the nature of a response operation due to its global positioning and capacity for rapid response. Some of the key challenges in civil-military coordination, Marx explained, are the tradeoffs between principles and pragmatism, timeliness of decision making, efficiency, coordination between different actors, and costs. Meeting these challenges is central to OCHA's operations.

The American Red Cross coordinates with many other organizations in the execution of its operations. Becky McCorry discussed these relationships, the challenges in cooperation, and the practices that the American Red Cross uses to ensure effectiveness.

The partners of the American Red Cross include federal government agencies, such as FEMA, state and local governments, the United States Northern Command (NORTHCOM), and the US Department of Agriculture. Red Cross also works with other non-governmental organizations, such as Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, Southern Baptist Convention, United Methodist Committee on Relief, NAACP, and Legal Services Corporation. The American Red Cross believes in collaborating at all levels and engaging local people and those affected during recovery. As McCorry pointed out, "All disasters are local." ARC is focused on local capacity building, recovery planning and assistance, and evaluation and planning. The key challenges in interactions between organizations are coordination, cooperation, communication, collaboration, and change management.

Prashant Yadav, professor of supply chain management at MIT-Zaragoza's International Logistics Program, discussed how inter-organizational coordination can positively impact global health supply chains. He described supply chain mechanisms that can help alleviate the inefficiencies that contribute to poor health outcomes for populations worldwide.

As examples of the severity of the global health crisis, he pointed out that almost one-third of the world's population does not have access to essential medicines, and around 10 million children under the age of five die due to lack of simple and affordable healthcare. A very complex system is used to finance health commodities for low income and less developed nations. Drugs and financing come from drug manufacturers and international financiers, flow through private, public and NGO buyers, and finally arrive to the end patients. To improve coordination, the Paris Declaration recommends using local and national procurement systems instead of external purchasing. Yadav cited the example of Zambia, where a drug supply budget line (DSBL) is used to ask donors for specific drugs according to needs. Also, a donor-coordinated pledge guarantee (PG) mechanism, such as an Escrow account, can be used to pre-position funds to avoid bureaucratic delays. Finally, minimum volume guarantees between manufacturers, donors and recipient countries can reduce procurement lead time, which is beneficial for recipients and development. Each of these practices is an example of how coordination within and between organizations can improve outcomes for affected populations.

Richard Owens of John Snow, Inc. (JSI), discussed inter-organizational coordination in the fight against AIDS. JSI is a public health research and consulting firm that seeks to improve the health of individuals and communities worldwide. The agency is a partner in a collaborative effort under the auspices of USAID called the USAID | Deliver Project. Owens described collaboration on the logistics efforts associated with this project.

USAID | Deliver seeks to increase the availability of essential health supplies in the areas of public health, including family planning and reproductive health; avian and pandemic influenza; and malaria. The project operates in 25 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Its Supply Chain Management System (SCMS) strives to establish supply chains to meet the care and treatment needs of people affected by HIV/AIDS. The SCMS project team is comprised of nonprofit organizations, private corporations, academic institutions, and faith-based organizations. Some of these members include Booz Allen Hamilton, the Fuel Logistics Group, JSI, PATH, UPS Supply Chain Solutions, and North-West University in South Africa. Other partners include CDC, the US Department of Defense, WHO, the World Bank, USAID, and NGOs. These members and partners collaborate in procurement and delivery, technical assistance for better supply chains and health systems, and finding long-term, local solutions. The keys to effective inter-organizational coordination are shared vision and mission, consistent metrics and measurement, constant communication, customer focus, continuous performance improvement, common tools and technical approaches, supply chain visibility, and common purpose and culture.

General Conclusions

Section 6: Plenary - The United Nations World Food Programme

Session Presenter:

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is charged with providing food aid to vulnerable populations worldwide. In the opening segment of this presentation, conference attendees were reminded of the importance of logistics in this endeavor: "There is enough food in the world for everyone. The challenge is getting it there." Amer Daoudi addressed this challenge, the work of WFP, and opportunities for improvement in humanitarian logistics in this plenary discussion.

WFP is the logistics arm of the UN and has been designated by the international community to lead humanitarian logistics response in emergencies. The organization serves 100 million people in 82 countries with more than 9,000 staff members, of which over 3,000 are in logistics. On any given day, 40 ships, 5,000 trucks, and 100 aircraft are en route to serve people in need. In addition to delivering food, WFP builds in-country infrastructure. Building and refurbishing ports, airports, roads, railways, and bridges enables the delivery of food and supplies to support the direct mission and also facilitates long-term recovery and stability. This is critical, since the transportation sector typically represents 20% of GDP in the developing world. WFP considers it a duty to leave behind a viable transport industry after completing a mission. Sudan is one example of this success. After benefiting from the development efforts of WFP, the Sudanese transport sector now brings fleets to assist at other WFP sites.

"Where we operate, we are second to none!" Daoudi emphasized while discussing the cost and speed of humanitarian response by NGOs, charities, and UN agencies in comparison to that by the military, government, and private sector. Even so, the World Food Programme strives for a more rapid, efficient, and cost effective response. This is achieved through a combination of several tools. WFP utilizes five humanitarian response depots worldwide, and more than 30 nongovernmental organizations use the space at these warehouses. Interagency cooperation prioritizes the first wave deployment. There are several sources of goods on which to draw: exchanges and loans take advantage of the multiple stocks of partners, the stocks of suppliers enable immediate purchase, and long-term agreements make virtual stock available. All requests are centralized through a single support office, providing a "one-stop shop" for resources.

WFP leverages logistics capabilities in the private and academic sectors to increase humanitarian operation effectiveness. In particular, emergency response assets, staff secondment, training, and knowledge transfer and creative solutions are important components of this endeavor. Private sector partners include TNT Logistics, Agility, Citigroup, Caterpillar, Google, and Pepsico.

Daoudi emphasized the importance of harmonizing humanitarian logistics response. First, accountability is necessary to improve effectiveness by ensuring greater predictability, responsibility for tasks, and partnership. Growing needs and increased expectations require that organizations must adapt, renew, and change to meet demand. Rising costs and lack of resources mean that organizations can no longer afford to compete with one another. "The current waste from lack of coordination could really make a difference!" Daoudi explained. Together, these steps can help achieve effective interagency preparedness and response.

General Conclusions

Section 7: Lunch Table Discussion Summaries

Every table was given two or three discussion topics that deal with how NGOs, government, military, industry, and academia can improve disaster planning, response, and recovery, as well as long-term health and humanitarian aid. Each table discussed ways of dealing with the challenges and examples of success. Discussions from each table were recorded and summarized, with comments categorized into ten broad challenges and three types of tools to address them. General conclusions are presented in this section.

Challenge #1: High uncertainty in demand

Relief demand is unknown both in size and type, and it is affected by dynamic and hard-tomeasure factors such as disaster characteristics, local economy and infrastructure, social and political conditions, etc. For instance, two earthquakes of similar magnitude may have entirely different outcomes if one hits a high population density area in a developing country and the other hits a better prepared city in a developed country.


Challenge #2: High uncertainty in timing

In general, it is difficult to predict exactly when a disaster will strike. This time frame could be relatively delimited as in a hurricane season or hardly predictable as in an earthquake. Therefore, organizations need to be in a constant state of readiness, plan over an uncertain time, and build flexibility into its operations.


Challenge #3: High uncertainty in location

We may know where the fault lines are, but we can predict neither when nor where an earthquake will happen. For other disasters such as hurricanes, we may have more information based on historical data and models that help us predict the path of a hurricane after it forms, but even a specific storm can change paths. Affected locations might also be dynamic as in the case of a pandemic influenza, so planning should account for this. Location uncertainty imposes additional challenges to preparedness activities such as relief supplies and equipment prepositioning, infrastructure investment, etc.


Challenge #4: High uncertainty in supply

Donations may be variable or restricted in their use, while in-kind donations may also be inadequate or unmatched with the demand. Building up relationships with local vendors, usually in a very short period of time, may be a difficult task as well.


Challenge #5: Challenges in collaboration among the multiple players and decision makers in a humanitarian supply chain.

Each of the responders (NGOs, governments, military, local authorities, etc.) may compete for limited resources to achieve their own goals, as was the case with limited airport capacity during the tsunami in 2004. Organizations and governments may also have different incentives that impair the effectiveness of collaborations.


Challenge #6: The impact of the political, cultural and socioeconomic conditions of the region

Unawareness of the specific local issues may cause even the best stand-alone plan to fail or be impractical. For example, genetically modified food is prohibited in some Southern African nations such as Zambia, and therefore food aid programs are more restricted there. The human factor is also crucial in humanitarian operations, and includes language, customs, political views, etc.


Challenge #7: The strong dependency of the last mile operations on the location and severity of a disaster

Transportation infrastructure might be disrupted and required equipment may not be locally available, affecting the supply chain responsiveness. This can be aggravated by limited location access or poor construction. This was the case of the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, where people lived in mountainous regions and had limited aid access to because of obstructed roads.


Challenge #8: Limited telecommunications and information infrastructure

The Internet is still not widely available or reliable in some developing countries; land-based phones and cellular phone communication towers might be down as a result of a disaster, as was the case after Hurricane Katrina hit. Also, since there might be more than one organization collecting data, it is common to find inconsistencies in the aftermath reports.


Challenge #9: Long-term impact of the many activities carried out during humanitarian operations

This happens as cities might be rebuilt, people might be relocated, new products and vendors might be introduced to the local market, etc. This is the case of the food aid monetization from the U.S. government, which starts with a donation of food to NGOs around the world, and then NGOs get funds for other aid programs by selling the in-kind donations in the local markets.


Challenge #10: The success of humanitarian operations is hard to measure.

Economic success is the standard performance measure in the for-profit world. In non-profit organizations this evaluation is more complex, considering difficult-to-formulate factors such as unmet demand, where demand is a broad concept in humanitarian operations and could mean shelter, food, healthcare services, security, or other needs.


Tool #1: The role of information technology (IT) in disaster relief and general aid programs

Information is an important enabler of the successful implementation of a disaster relief or general aid program when it is properly managed and applied. Information technology could be anything that helps to produce, store, process, and disseminate information. Examples range from computer networks and databases to state-of-the-art information management software.


Tool #2: The role of education in disaster relief and aid programs

Education is an important foundation for the planning and implementation of successful disaster relief and general aid programs. Necessary knowledge and skills can be developed through educational programs that could be as general as a management course, or more specific to the humanitarian operations.


Tool #3: The role of science and research in disaster relief and aid programs

Humanitarian operations are very challenging. Research could help to make substantial improvements on the way things are currently done, through the development and application of adequate analytical methods and systems.


Section 8: Poster Session

Throughout the conference, poster displays highlighted the work of researchers and practitioners in the field of humanitarian logistics. Session breaks saw conference participants interacting with poster presenters to learn more about ongoing efforts in this area. Thirty-seven posters represented work being done at academic institutions such as MIT, Stanford, the University of Manitoba, and Georgia Tech; governmental agencies including the CDC; private companies such as Northrop Grumman; and non-governmental organizations such as CARE, the World Food Programme, and MedShare. Many posters represented partnerships across multiple sectors.

The poster session focused on work being done to improve humanitarian logistics efforts through all phases of an event, including preparedness, response, recovery, and long term development and mitigation. The kinds of events addressed by these projects also spanned a wide spectrum: hurricane preparedness and response, disease prevention and mitigation campaigns, emergency food provision, debris collection, and blood collection were among the topics addressed. Methodologies from social sciences, operations research, and computer science were all represented.

The breadth of the work presented in the poster session provided the opportunity for conference participants to network and develop contacts for future work in this area. Full abstracts of all of the posters are available at

Section 9: Workshops

Workshop Presenters:

The second day of the conference consisted of two parallel workshop sessions to promote networking and skill-building among conference attendees. More than 70 participants contributed to the interactive workshops, representing government agencies, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, and private sector companies.

The first workshop, entitled Managing Performance in Humanitarian Logistics, built on the well-understood goals of for-profit logistics organizations to develop performance management tools for humanitarian logistics agencies. In the for-profit logistics world, key logistics objectives are the maximization of profitability and customer satisfaction. In the humanitarian logistics space, in addition to minimizing cost while optimizing delivery times, the key concern is the impact of performance as a determinant of the survival of the affected population. Therefore logisticians have to manage a different set of rules when allocating inventory, choosing transportation modes, and selecting vendors or stocking locations. In addition to this complexity, most humanitarian organizations have a large set of stakeholders that care about organizational performance, thus complicating the designing of metrics when balancing the needs of donors, beneficiaries, suppliers, and internal management. The objective of this workshop was to present participants with a proven framework to manage and measure performance in humanitarian logistics operations. Participants worked interactively to review the parameters for metric design, identify appropriate metrics for logistics performance, and explore the management applications of performance measuring systems such as benchmarking, self-assessments, financial justification, and project analysis.

In the second workshop, Pre-Planning and Response to Large-Scale Domestic Events, an overview of the history and organization of large-scale event response was followed by a facilitated discussion among workshop participants of responses to varied incidents. The country has been struck by large-scale natural and manmade disasters many times over the past few years and such events have been brought to the national forefront. Even though the events are varied and seem unrelated, experience has demonstrated that the skills required for planning and responding to any type of large incident are similar. This workshop helped identify general requirements and issues associated with response to large-scale incidents and provided two example scenarios to be used as a basis for comparison. The attendees discussed elements of responses that are similar and unique to each type of incident, comparing the examples of widespread flooding across several states and a domestic terrorism attack in a major metropolitan area. Topics of discussion included roles and responsibilities of different groups in each scenario, skill sets required to address the scenarios, and the steps participants can take in their organizations to help prepare for these or other large-scale domestic events.

Section 10: Conclusion

The 2009 Humanitarian Logistics Conference concluded with a summary of important points raised and lessons learned throughout the sessions. Take-away messages emphasized:

The conference was successful in bringing together humanitarian logistics stakeholders from business, academia, government, and non-governmental organizations. The interaction was an important step forward in defining challenges, opportunities, and goals for practitioners and researchers alike. Much important work remains to be done to meet these objectives. By drawing on the lessons and relationships developed at the conference, these efforts will have substantial impact on some of the most pressing problems of our time.


The conference co-chairs and program committee gratefully acknowledge the work of many individuals whose efforts made the conference possible. The following volunteers and staff members assisted with the conference activities: Mike Alberghini, Carlo Davila, Jessica Heier, Swetha Krishnakumar, Lawrence Li, Amanda Mejia, Amanda Ondras, Emil Runge, Logan Vickery, and James Wade.

The following conference participants submitted notes from the lunch discussion session: Patricio Bichara, Ann Campbell, Ali Ekici, Erica Gralla, Jacqueline Griffin, Canan Gunes, Dilek Gunnec, Marco Gutierrez, Russell Halper, Jessica Heier, Corey Johnson, Jessica McCoy, Amanda Mejia, Hugh Medal, Natalie Privett, Angela Rice, Heather Swientek, Evin Uzun, Maria Laura Varela, Monica Villarreal, James Wade, and Rupa Valdez.

1Smalley, Richard (2003). "Top Ten Problems of Humanity for the Next 50 Years," Energy and Nanotechnology:
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