From Paul D. Larson, Ph.D., Professor and Distinguished Senior Fellow, Humlog Institute, Hanken
On May 20, a Finnish aid worker was kidnapped in Kabul, Afghanistan. The dreadful incident included the murders of a German aid worker and an Afghan security guard. (1) Once again, we are reminded how dangerous humanitarian work can be.
ALNAP estimates that there were 450,000 humanitarian aid workers globally in 2015. (2) As shown below, 287 of them were killed, injured or kidnapped in 148 separate incidents. The proportions vary, but the preponderance of victims are always national (not international) aid workers.
This year, through May 20, an estimated 106 humanitarian aid workers have been attacked. A very large majority of these victims (98 out of 106) are nationals of the countries in which the attacks occurred. The most dangerous countries for aid workers in 2017 are Syria, South Sudan, Somalia and Afghanistan. Of the 106, 56 were killed, 23 wounded and 27 kidnapped (https://aidworkersecurity.org/incidents/search?start=2017&end=2017&detail=0).
Miklian et al. found, as expected, that countries at war are more dangerous for aid workers. However, surprisingly, whether combatants follow the “rules of war” appears to have little impact on the danger – they found no evidence that conflicts where combatants actively target civilians present higher risk for aid workers. Interestingly, countries in which NATO forces are deployed may experience fewer attacks on aid workers, while nations with UN peacekeeping missions have more attacks.(3)
Facing such danger, what’s a humanitarian to do? There are three primary strategies: stay away and avoid the danger; ignore the danger, until it appears without warning; or mitigate it, using techniques of proactive risk management.
To Avoid, Ignore or Mitigate?
Avoiding means staying away (for the internationals) or getting out (for the nationals) by joining the ranks of refugees leaving their home countries. This can be very disruptive for the national departing as a refugee. It also leaves the victims of disasters, in urgent need of help, to handle it themselves.
The Brexit vote, referendum in Turkey and Trump presidency. The waves of nationalist populism in the global North have awaken fears in the research communities. The repercussions for researchers have in the short-term varied between inconveniencing and deadly. The mobility of European researchers between the U.K. and the rest of Europe has become more cumbersome and the anti-immigration attitudes that flamed around the Brexit vote have affected also researchers wellbeing. Meanwhile, in the United States the whole public system seems to be shaking and among others the Environmental Protection Agency has been heavily affected with adverse consequences predicted to hit everything between tap water quality and climate change (Tabuchi 2017). In Turkey, academics suspected of dissenting Erdogan’s politics have been purged (Reuters 2017).
The direct short-term effects on researchers’ ability to carry out their work and make a living are entangled with a larger concern about role of science in societies. There have been talks about the post-Truth, post-factual and post-intellectual era. The terms imply that there was a time when decisions people made decisions based on rational evaluation of facts, while trusting “intellectuals” to hold the Truth. Critics have been quick to point out that leveraging affect in history of politics has been the rule, rather than the exception.
Yet, even if drawing a causal relationship between populist politics and appreciation of science under the banner of “post-Truth” might be quite a stretch, researchers are (rightly) worrying about the contemporary appreciation of science under the reign of simultaneous austerity measures and populist politicians. For example in Finland, some politicians see the knowledge and attitude held by researchers as outdated, inactionable and passive. In Finland the lay-offs at universities and the restructuring of research funding towards a more market-driven approach have subjected Finnish researchers to an increased precarity.
Towards the end of 2015, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi asked the Muslims of the world to join the fight for their cause of world domination. He probably made this request sincerely, hoping Muslims world over would abandon whatever they were doing and grab a torch/pitchfork and head for battle. What he probably did not see coming was the Twitter trolling that followed his proclamation. Mr. al-Baghdadi was clearly not aware that the new Star Wars movie has just come out, or that the new episode of Sherlock was coming out in a few short weeks, which kept people busy. Others cited more athletic reasons for skipping out on the uprising: footy on Sunday or leg-day at the gym, which usually results in soreness the next day. These are just a few of the hilarious excuses ordinary people tweeted to the leader ISIS, one of the most horrific terrorist organizations in history, to not join his fight.
Social media and the internet in general has changed the game in communication, it has never been easier to disseminate information or communicate directly with political leaders or celebrities. While some governments are trying their hardest to block the free use of the internet in fear of a revolution, it is still extremely difficult to completely inhibit the spread of information. Sometimes all it takes is one picture to go viral, for example the deceased refugee toddler on the beach, to spark outrage and/or action against a phenomenon or crisis. Not too long ago these types of images may have remained unseen by the general public, now it is near impossible to escape them. They say in many past wars the full horrors of what was going on wasn’t common knowledge. It was not possible to DM the dictator and while making memes before the internet age was surely very common, they probably mostly remained inside jokes since going viral wasn’t really a thing. As certain heads of state have recently discovered, it is extremely difficult to keep things a secret nowadays.
One solution could lie in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), which can help humanitarian workers improve the efficiency of logistics, risk management and coordination of humanitarian missions. And this is already happening. As noted by Donini and Maxwell there is an increasing change in humanitarian relationships and practice ‘from face-to-face to face-to-screen’. The shift to relying on technology is a rapid process with low barriers to entry; we can thus expect many new technological solutions to protecting humanitarian work. Today already ‘ICT use for humanitarian response runs the gamut from satellite imagery to drone deployment; to tablet and smartphone use; to crowd mapping and aggregation of big data’ (Raymond and Harrity, 10).
As a part of Humanitarian logistics course, 16 students had the opportunity to visit the Finnish Red Cross logistics centre in Kalkku, Tampere. Ari Mäntyvaara, logistic coordinator, was the guide during the visit of the centre and shared with the participants some of his experiences of operations on the field.
Finnish Red Cross logistics centre is the only warehouse of FRC in Finland, which means that it is a very centralised system. Its location has been chosen as it is considered as the middle of Finland in terms of population repartition in the territory. The building used to be a factory facility, which was extended in 2009. Some additional outsourced warehouses are also used around Tampere.
In the Finnish Red Cross Logistics Centre, 15 people are working full time.
The students had the opportunity to visit 3 different areas of the centre:
Where donated clothing is sorted
Where material aid is stored
Where online shop goods are stored
And to know more about:
What is an Emergency Response Unit
Where donated clothing is sorted
Here is where all the clothing donated in Finland is collected, checked, carefully packed and stored before being sent for the target countries. Clothing comes from private donors, either individuals or companies.
The Logistics Centre of the Finnish Red Cross offers subsidised work placements for the long-term unemployed people. This means that a part of the staff, around twenty people, is composed of people who used to be long-term unemployed and who need to receive support as they are for different reasons excluded from the regular job market. The Red Cross decides to give them the opportunity to work, but a part of the salary is paid by public money. The purpose is for the employees to gain working experiences, thus to have better chance to find a regular job and overall a better situation in the society. Through employing people in need, the Red Cross Finland is also having a positive impact locally.
By Emily Gooding, winner of the HUMLOG best Master's thesis Award 2016
The response to the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak consumed hundreds of thousands of boots, examination gloves, and liters of chlorine. The supply chains that brought these critical relief items to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone relied on a series of manufacturers, transporters, governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and international organizations (IOs) to move items from storage and manufacturing sites around the world to the affected countries. In humanitarian crises, as demonstrated by the 2014 Ebola outbreak, public, private, and humanitarian actorsmust work together to form these supply chains that deliver relief items.
In the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the supply chain of personal protective equipment (PPE) – gloves, masks, coveralls, and other items that protect healthcare workers – was made up of NGOs, IOs, public actors, and private companies who had never before worked together. Humanitarian organizations were procuring items they had never purchased. Governments were procuring items in larger quantities and with stricter specifications than they ever had. And these items were procured from private sector companies who had little-to-no experience responding to public health crises.
As a result, the supply chain was built hastily and relationships between actors were quickly forged. There were big obstacles to doing so, and even bigger challenges in coordinating the supply chain that emerged. These challenges led to an excess supply of PPE in some affected areas and a PPE shortage in others.
We interviewed 17 actors across the supply chain and found that all types of actors were frustrated by the response. But coordination – the flow of information and the development of trust – improved over time. Before the next epidemic, these supply chain actors must work together to share their relative expertise, build trust, and establish ways to coordinate in the face of another crisis.
Our study found that during the Ebola outbreak, many humanitarian and government actors made decisions solely to avoid the upfront cost of holding excess inventory, while private sector actors utilized more sophisticated inventory decision-making and contracting tools. And many private companies excel at collecting and using supply chain data to inform their decision-making.
Organizational culture has no consistent definition in the extant literature. Schein, (2004, p.17) defines organizational culture as “a pattern of shared basic assumptions that was learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems”.
In order to understand the type of organizational culture some salient points from the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI) as developed by Cameron and Quinn (2005) can be taken for consideration. This measure provides an idea about the organizational culture type based on a typology matrix. OCAI uses six dimensions to develop the organizational culture type. They are (a) dominant characteristics, (b) organizational leadership, (c) management of employees, (d) organizational glue, (e) strategic emphases, and (f) criteria of success. The six OCAI dimensions lead to classifying the organization into one of the four categories: Hierarchy, market, clan, and adhocracy culture.
Supply chain collaboration enables firms to obtain differential performance as they access resources and routines that exist with different supply chain members (Dyer and Singh, 1998). Moreover, such collaborative advantages are especially difficult to replicate since competitors must both acquire the complementary resources and roll out in the same way (Holcomb et al. 2006). Collaborative supply chains develop unique customer value by identifying resources that are outside the organizational boundaries. Such distinctive capabilities that bridge organizational boundaries are goal alignment, frequent and open communication, exchange of expertise and resources (Stonebraker and Afifi 2004).
In a study by Fawcett et al. (2013) it is found that two core collaboration resistors exist: unwillingness to adapt to collaborative behaviour, and a lack of trust. It is further found that resistance to change is so ingrained in organizational culture. Seeing this alongside the four cultural aspects that form the base line of supply chain collaboration as indicated by Barratt (2004) are (a) trust, (b) mutuality, (c) information exchange, and (d) openness & communication, gives adequate linkages among the elements of organizational culture and elements that make up collaborative behaviour. So it can be logically concluded that a supportive organizational culture would enhance collaborative outcomes between supply chain partners. The linkages can be also extended to humanitarian context but requires validation through research.
By Isabell Storsjö, doctoral student and zombie fan
Zombies. Walking dead. Living dead. Popular culture has given many names to the terrifying idea of creatures stuck between death and life hunting the living for their flesh or brains. My fascination for zombies started with the AMC series “The Walking Dead”, which my husband started watching in 2012. From the start, I didn’t want to watch it since I am easily scared, but I couldn’t avoid hearing it from a different room. Soon enough, I was hooked by the plot and characters, and had to find myself a spot in the sofa every night the show aired, prepared with a pillow in my hand to hide behind when the zombies attacked.
Credits to the AMC Network Entertainment “Dead Yourself” App
Having now watched several seasons of The Walking Dead, and other zombie films, I have gotten used to seeing decomposing undead tearing apart living people on the screen, and I am no longer as sensitive as a few years back. The interesting thing with this series (in addition to the plot of course) is that it plays with the thought of society completely falling apart, leading to a situation where the remaining population is struggling to sustain life. Not only the epidemic itself but also fear of it drives people from their homes and work, and they fight for resources.
What the characters in The Walking Dead experience may be fiction, but the story also depicts a catastrophe that has gone out of hand. The zombie metaphor can be useful to model the worst-case scenario, and was actually used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US in 2011 in a risk campaign to raise awareness of why and how to prepare for emergencies.
By Dr. Nathan Kunz, assistant professor of operations management, University of North Florida
Each hour counts when responding to a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Matthew which hit Haiti in October 2016. Affected populations are in desperate need for food, medicines or shelters. It took international relief organization based in the U.S. or Europe several days or even weeks to purchase these supplies and ship them to Haiti. During this time, people in Haiti continued to suffer. Because of the unpredictable nature of disasters, an organization that is not prepared can’t respond to the needs of the population in a reasonable amount of time.
A relief organization can get prepared by prepositioning relief supplies such as food, medicines or shelters in warehouses in vulnerable countries. If a disaster hits, the organization delivers the supplies from its local warehouse. This preparedness strategy is very effective, but generates extremely high costs. Indeed, these supplies aren’t used during years with no disaster and thus need to be renewed regularly, especially food or medicines with expiration dates. Moreover, because nobody knowns where the next disaster will hit, international relief organizations have to set up a local warehouse in every disaster prone country. For these reasons, disaster preparedness has been limited so far, because no relief organization has the financial resources to run such an expensive network of warehouses.
In a paper I wrote with colleagues, we propose an alternative to this expensive preparedness strategy. Instead of prepositioning supplies in multiple countries, we recommend relief organizations keep relief supplies in a central warehouse and send them by airplane right after a disaster hits a country. There is a caveat, however. If an organization isn’t already present in a country, it doesn’t have a local network of partners it can rely on to receive the supplies and distribute them. Any shipment into a country has to fulfill all administrative requirements, go through customs clearance, be picked up at the airport and delivered to distribution points. This is impossible without a good local knowledge and existing network in each country. In our paper, we suggest that relief organizations can build this knowledge and network by investing in local disaster management capabilities. These capabilities are, for example, to develop specific importation procedures for each country, negotiate agreements with local governments, identify local suppliers and staff that could distribute the supplies and identify possible distribution centers. By developing such capabilities, the relief organization can be prepared to respond quickly after a disaster, without having to spend colossal amounts for prepositioning supplies.
Some thoughts about my current work, by Peter Tatham - Professor of Humanitarian Logistics, Griffith University (Queensland, Australia)
May I begin by using this Blog to wish all the readers and peaceful and successful 2017. For those engaged in research, I hope that your endeavours bear fruit, and those who are undertaking the really important work of the humanitarian logistician, I sincerely hope that you will deliver your goals with the minimum of stress to you and your families.
In reflecting on what to write for this blog, I took the easy option of offering some thoughts about my current work in evaluating how three emerging technological changes could impact the practice of humanitarian logistics (HL). These are:
3D Printing (3DP).
Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) (otherwise known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles/Systems (UAV/S) or drones).
Hybrid Cargo Airships (HCAs)
All three of these developments have enormous potential to impact the management and operation of supply chains in the commercial environment – and so the challenge is to understand if and how they can be brought to bear to support the logistic preparation and response to disasters.
In the case of 3DP it has multiple benefits, key amongst which is its capacity to produce multiple finished parts from a single source material. This, together with the ability to make these parts when the demand has crystallised has the clear potential to reduce the requirement to warehouse components on a ‘just in case’ basis. In addition, its inherent flexibility allows bespoke items to be created to meet a specific non-standard requirement, whilst the high mass to volume ratio and minimal packaging requirements of the raw material are added benefits.
However, and this is to my mind the critical issue, it will be necessary to develop a robust organisational model that controls the overall process and ensures that the finished product is made of an appropriate material and of an appropriate design, and that the product itself has been printed correctly. In other words, that the output is ‘fit for purpose’. Whilst the temptation to produce ad hoc prints is inevitable, particular in the time-poor post-disaster context, this must be resisted to minimise the risks of accidents and/or injuries.
Thus, as ever, the supply chain manager must ensure the appropriate integration of people, processes and technology. The technology has been pretty well nailed, so now we need to work on the other two components of this triad.