Monday, February 15, 2010

A Humanitarian Logistics Service Corps -- Let's Dream and Do It!

In two OpEd companion pieces in The New York Times, Matt Klapper and James J. Riley argue for a search and rescue corps for disaster relief, and Dr. Vanessa Bradford Kerry, the daughter of Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, argues for a new international service corps of medical professionals to assist in humanitarian operations relief, also post disasters.

These two service corps ideas are outstanding but another crucial element of this complex disaster relief network is missing. Hence, I would add that we need to dream bigger dreams and to include a missing piece. We need to envision and to build a humanitarian logistics service corps. Without timely and effective humanitarian logistics operations man and material do not get delivered to points of demand, as what was dramatically demonstrated in the post-earthquake disaster of Haiti and numerous others disasters. Indeed, doctors had to do amputations with hacksaws and to disinfect wounds with vodka and operate without anesthesia. Many medical professionals continue to be traumatized after conducting their medical procedures and more lives could have been saved. They did not have the supplies at the appropriate time that effective logistics would have given them.

I have been writing about this issue extensively in this blog and believe that building on the ideas generated, a humanitarian logistics service corps would enable the following:

1. it would educate interested parties about humanitarian logistics and would provide new, exciting partnerships with colleges, universities, even high schools, and various relevant organizations;

2. it would provide educated and trained professionals both within specific countries, where the disaster has struck and outside with domain-specific knowledge and expertise;

3. it would enable closer collaboration and coordination during dynamically evolving disasters and post-disaster relief, and

4. it would provide opportunities for partnerships with stakeholders, including corporations, to develop technologically-enhanced tools for logistics operations.

This service corps could then lend its expertise during periods of relative serenity to assist needy communities in food distribution, n humanitarian support, and other appropriate service activities.

Education would be a critical component of the humanitarian logistics service corps. Read here how desperately Haiti's education infrastructure was affected by the calamitous earthquake.

I can envision which professional societies and organizations could help to spearhead such a service corps and would single out both IFORS (the International Federation of Operational Research Societies) and INFORMS (Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences). The funding for such an effort might be provided by relevant foundations, corporations, private and public institutions, humanitarian organizations, and, perhaps, some governments.

The expertise gained by members of such a humanitarian logistics service corps could then be applied outside this sector, since effective production and supply, combined with the effective movement of goods and services to points of needed demand for delivery in a timely manner, are what makes economies work!