Emergency Logistics for Non-Governmental Organizations

Table of Content

Non-Government Organization

It is an organization that is not part of any government. What makes it distinct is that it’s between not-for-profit groups and for-profit corporations; the vast majority of NGOs are not-for-profit. While in some countries, mostly socialist ones, government organized several NGOs. Non-government organization objective is to protect variety of human interests and that could be domestic or international in scope. Government relies to some NGOs of key sources of information on issues such as environmental degradation and human rights abuses. Financial support comes from private donations, international organizations, governments, or a combination of these helped non-government organization to operate.

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I. Various Non – Government Organizations

Researcher would like to present several non-government organizations that’s been around for many years and continues to organize and help people who were victims of disasters, calamities and any humanitarian aid.

A. Red Cross – It is considered as one of the established and respectable NGO that has been around for many years, and operating in many countries. Their purpose are to help vulnerable people around the world to prevent, prepare for, and respond to disasters, complex humanitarian emergencies, and life-threatening health conditions.

Particularly, The American Red Cross achieves this goal by working within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement—considered to be the world’s largest humanitarian network with 181 national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and more than 100 million volunteers. They abide by the seven fundamental principles: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity, and universality. (http://www.redcross.org)

The American Red Cross works to strengthen their leadership, financial management, volunteer networks, and technical capabilities with local societies. They also work hand in hand with their Movement partners enable them to train and organize volunteers and educate communities to empower them with the skills and knowledge they need to help themselves. American Red Cross continues to create partnerships with other public and private organizations whose capabilities strengthen and complement their initiatives to ensure that programs are comprehensive

B. MedAir – International Humanitarian Aid Organization

Founded in 1988, Medair is a non-governmental organization (NGO) independent of any political, economic, social or religious authority. Its international headquarters is based in Switzerland. Its mission is exclusively humanitarian and it accomplishes its work in a spirit of dedication and solidarity, inspired by its Christian values. They are certified ISO 9001 at worldwide level for its quality management system.
Their objectives are to respond to suffering victims in war and disaster situations (especially those that have been forgotten or neglected) through various kinds of emergency and rehabilitative projects. They have 50 employees working in Switzerland, United Kingdom, Germany, France and Holland. In the field, 120 full-time expatriates help populations in difficulty, with the support of 1600 local employees. (http://www.medair.org/en_portal/org_about_medair.php)
C. UN Disaster Relief Coordinator (UNDRO)

UNDRO was formed in 1971 and concentrates in disaster-related matters. They focal responsibility is to respond to sudden natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions and typhoons; its mandate has been expanded to cover emergency “man-made” disasters. (UN Chronicle, 1991)

D. USAID – US Agency for International Development

The United States has a long history of extending a helping hand to those people overseas struggling to make a better life, recover from a disaster or striving to live in a free and democratic country. USAID has been the major U.S. agency to expand aid and support to countries that are recuperating from disaster, trying to escape poverty, and engaging in democratic reforms. SAID is an independent federal government agency that receives overall foreign policy guidance from the Secretary of State. Our Work supports long-term and equitable economic growth and advances U.S. foreign policy objectives by supporting: economic growth, agriculture and trade; global health; and, democracy, conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance. Their headquarters in Washington, D.C., USAID’s strength is its field offices around the world. They provide assistance in four regions around the world such as Sub – Saharan Africa, Asia and the Near East, Latin America and the Caribbean and Europe and Eurasia. They work in close partnership with private voluntary organizations, indigenous organizations, universities, American businesses, international agencies, other governments, and other U.S. government agencies. USAID has working relationships with more than 3,500 American companies and over 300 U.S.-based private voluntary organizations. (http://www.usaaid.gov)

II. When Disasters Strike

Every year whatever country it is, our world struggles between different disasters, it could be in land, air, or sea. Hundreds of millions of people every year were affected by it. Disasters devastate lives and destroy livelihoods. Research has shown that more than 90 per cent of disaster-related deaths occur in developing countries.
When disaster strikes, years of development can be wiped out in seconds. Billions of money was lost, jobs were affected and many lives are affected. Communications, transportations, water, sanitation and public services are in distress. It is so hard to neutralize such an event after a disaster or tragedy. Lives of people are on hold and are in jeopardy. Help and support both in financial and emotional are needed. People need food, water and shelter immediately in order for them to recuperate slowly. Sometimes, people find it hard to recover especially when another disaster strikes them again.

Non – government organizations must have skilled volunteers and prepare themselves physically and mentally with various disasters or tragedies. Fully equipped materials are also needed and new technologies of communication gadgets will help them execute a better aid to people.

A. Importance of Logistics to NGO

Time is crucial for NGO when responding to a disaster or tragedies. However, everything should be prepared and planned before going to the location. Coordination and cooperation of various NGO’s are essential for the operation to make it successful. Various technical advisors have developed standard operating procedures and technical specifications for the different Emergency response.

Logistics plays a very important role in any non-government organizations. Deployments would be at airports, seaports, Federation or National Society delegations and at the point of final distribution/action and any transit points. Several procedures are being undertaken in order to have a systematic action.

Examine some customs and documentation requirements for deployment area.
Inspect other immigration necessities for deployment area.
Establish the airport/port cargo handling capacities.
Evaluate the storage capacity/capability within deployment area and within the Federation/National Society existing operations.
Evaluate the existing transport capacity support infrastructure within the deployment area including local market, other NGO’s, government and Federation/National Society operations.
Establish links with National Societies and Federation logistics functions.
Establish links with local authorities connected with logistics functions i.e. customs, airport authority in association with National Society and Federation delegation if applicable.
Set up receiving office in main port of entry. This office will ensure that systems are in place and that commodity tracking process commences.
Be responsible for the reception and processing of equipment and personnel to be deployed.
Communicate with operational area for the on forwarding of goods and personnel to operational area.
Carry out local procurement of relief supplies and services according to the agreed needs and in compliance with Federation specifications and procedures.
Make certain that all goods are secure and safe for operation and that all necessary insurance procedures are in place.
Coordinate and establish contacts with local freight forwarders and transport/warehousing suppliers. Evaluate market availability.
Provide accurate and timely briefings with staff and volunteers in the field.
Maintain daily contact with all coordination units.
Source: Disaster Management Information Service

B. Beyond Logistics
In the aftermath of a disaster, humanitarian organizations providing supplies, resources and expertise are the first line of defense for affected populations. However, a lack of available funding to invest in infrastructure, processes, and tools, has resulted in usable but inadequate technology systems for disaster relief management. Under-utilization of technology has resulted in limited learning from disaster to disaster; origin-to-destination information about money, food and non-food supplies and gifts-in-kind is not readily available to decision-makers in real-time. In addition, manual, non-standardized, error-prone processes still dominate. Best practices in technology and process improvement – adapted to the unique context of disasters – have the potential to stretch relief dollars, increase operational efficiencies, and improve the delivery of aid. (http://www.fritzinstitute.org/prgTech-HLS.htm)

Problems still occur even if an organization has standard operating procedures. There have been many reports that kind of logistics being used by several NGO’s are not that efficient and needed a reform in order to serve the people better.

A group of experts has concluded that humanitarian supply logistics systems must be effectively coordinated to help people in disasters or emergencies. The World Health Organizations (WHO) has asked 50 logistics experts from international organizations to participate in a forum to discuss logistics management systems for humanitarian assistance in disaster situations.

They have discussed that logistics systems must be better coordinated and clearly transparent if humanitarian supplies are to bring the most effective help to people in crisis. They have identified that there is an urgent need for a timely coordination of humanitarian supply logistics in disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. They should come up with a common approach that will enable them to exchange logistical information and an international standardized classification of all supplies is crucial and essential.

Participating NGO has agreed to utilize the practice and philosophy of SUMA, a system developed by PAHO and the Foundation for the Development of a Supply Management System (FUNDESUMA), as the base for development of this common platform. SUMA software has been used successfully in the last ten years mainly in the Americas, during and after large disasters. Experts advise that a common system should be useful not only for the United Nations agencies and for humanitarian assistance organizations, but for national authorities in disaster-prone countries, who often lack logistics software to manage incoming supplies in an emergency situation. SUMA use simple software on laptop computers to track and sort incoming donations and their destinations, allowing disaster managers to see what they have and send it where it is needed. (http://www.who.int)

C. Latest Logistics Technology

1. Humanitarian Logistics Software

One of the leading NGO’s is Red Cross Red Crescent adopted a new high technology logistics. It is a Web-based system that will take current processes and will link all steps of the logistics chain, from the launch of an emergency appeal through procurement, donations, warehousing and distribution to disaster victims. It’s a very exciting development and a wonderful illustration of the synergy that can be created between the private sector and humanitarian agencies,” said Didier Cherpitel, Secretary General of the International Federation. (http://www.ifrc.org/news/archives.asp)

The Humanitarian Logistics Software will standardize and automate the relief mobilization process, providing more control and visibility. Delays in sourcing emergency relief materials will be reduced by eliminating paper trails of supply locations and creating a central repository for supply information. The result will be the ability to track donations through the entire mobilization supply chain up to the point of receipt of the materials at the disaster site. (http://www.ifrc.org/news/archives.asp)

This will enable NGO’s to be more efficient and effective in responding to emergencies and disasters. Faster and easier access to information will help them to provide better service delivery to victims.

2. Helios

It is a comprehensive supply chain technology solution that brings order to disaster relief, helping humanitarian organizations provide aid to people quickly and more efficiently. HELIOS provides real-time access to supply chain information to enhance decision making at every level throughout the aid delivery process. The result is an improved return on donation and faster assistance to beneficiaries.

According to Mizushima, Fritz Institute’s Chief Logistics stated that HELIOS is the product of critical and requests from leading international non-governmental organizations (NGOs)to quickly build up and deploy a “next generation” supply chain management software that will allow them to effectively track numerous goods and donations coming and being distributed across the communities.

HELIOS will be provided to as many humanitarian organizations as possible so that across the region the coordination of the pipelines of supplies, information and financing from donation to delivery can be vastly improved, thus enabling more of the right aid to reach the right people at the right time. (http://www.ifrc.org/news/archives.asp)

III. Conclusion

Disasters and tragedies call for help both for government and non – government organizations. Everybody is in despair of need and support. Whom they will turn to? Non – government organizations are considered unsung heroes of our society. They are the ones who fight for the battle for the goodness of humankind.

Logistics plays a very fundamental aspect of any humanitarian aid. Time makes it all different and various programs are being implemented to ensure that every help is properly executed and many people will benefit from it. Government and private institutions continues to research new technologies in order to provide a better form of logistics to all non – government organizations. These technologies will be beneficial to all humankind when disaster strikes. Effective and efficient programs are very advantageous to all countries.

A variety of logistics technology will enable to maximize the effort of humanitarian relief efforts.  It will help coordinate all organization units in both the office and fields. Accurate information is disseminated and humanitarian efforts are optimized to the fullest. It will improve efficiency of humanitarian supply chain operations because of the automated software. Aside from having a systematic program, it will also enhance the relationship between non – government organizations and their donors.

The focal point of the whole program is to HELP people. People wanted to live in a better place and what they can do is to reach out and make it a safer, better, and happy place to live in.


Routledge, D. (2001)The Management of Non-Governmental Development Organizations: An Introduction
Naidoo, K (May 8, 2000) NGOS SHOULD BE MADE MORE EFFECTIVE IN STRENGTHENING DEMOCRACY : The New Civic Globalism. The Nation, Vol. 270,

Szadkowski , J. (September 15, 1997) Reuters Comes to Aid of Private Relief Agencies Worldwide. The Washington Times

Aid for Ethiopian Relief Reaches over $300 Million, Undro Reports. UN Chronicle, Vol. 22, January 1985
DHS Disaster Management Solutions. The Washington Times, January 29, 2006

UNDRO: coping with disaster a fine line – Office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator – Cover Story. UN Chronicle, June, 1991






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