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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 2 (2012 Deadline)

Integrated humanitarian logistics system for developing countries

PI: Victor Cantillo (Fundación Universidad del Norte)
U.S. Partner: José Holguin-Veras (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)
Project Dates: August 2013 - October 2016
Evidence to Action Supplement: August 2017 - July 2018

 
2-487 Community Outreach
PhD student Luis Macea working with local communities to gather data about disaster management practices (photo courtesy of Dr. Cantillo).
This project aims to contribute to the development of an integrated humanitarian logistics system for post-disaster relief response in developing countries. As part of the work, the research team will collaborate to propose humanitarian logistics models that explicitly incorporate a key aspect that has not been considered before: deprivation costs (i.e., the cost associated with lack of access to life-sustaining items). This is important in order to develop appropriate models capable of representing human suffering. The research is expected to produce algorithms and heuristics to solve and validate the proposed formulations and propose an effective emergency management system for post-disaster relief operations. This will lead to analytical formulations that properly consider the consequences of logistics decisions once populations have been impacted by disasters and, ultimately, to more effective and coordinated strategies to deliver critical supplies in developing countries. This research will be complemented with a plan to enhance project impacts by attracting students to careers in engineering at graduate level, integrating research and education, and reaching out to practitioners with training sessions in disaster response operations.
The importance and relevance of the proposed work has been evidenced by direct observations and field work conducted during recent humanitarian logistics efforts after super-storm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, and the Joplin tornado, as well as the earthquake response in Haiti and the Dominican Republic and the response to the Japan earthquake and tsunami. Research conducted has highlighted the challenges of disaster relief systems in both developed and developing countries. These findings will be complemented with additional field work to be conducted by the team at ongoing disaster relief operations in Colombia. This proposal includes a close relationship with disaster relief operations agencies such as the local Emergency Disaster Response Office, which will work with the research team and social scientists in data collection regarding the last major disasters in Colombia. This work and coordination provides an excellent and unique opportunity, as the number of disasters in the country has shown a notable increase in the last few years, especially due to climate changes. It is expected that the analysis of the datasets and case studies and a review of best practices will allow the team to adapt them to the needs of developing countries and be able to propose a disaster management system that minimizes human suffering. Furthermore, this system can be used to provide training to relevant agencies to make their response as effective and efficient as possible. In that sense, practitioners will have first-hand exposure to the problem and possible ways to resolve it.
Summary of Recent Activities
Dr. Cantillo received a PEER Evidence to Action supplement in the summer of 2017 to support a one-year outreach and capacity building effort as a follow on to his PEER Cycle 2 project, which was completed in October 2016. During the final stages of that project, the PI and his team worked on designing a model emergency management system, based on an analysis of current practices in developing countries but extending that to propose a plan for the internal organization of the relevant government agencies consistent with the humanitarian logistics models the team had developed. Now, the researchers aim to apply the system they developed and propose specific policy recommendations regarding natural disaster preparedness and response. In particular, they will focus on the communities affected by floods in the Colombian
Caribbean Region during the rainy season in 2010 and 2011. The first main objective is to train people in charge of disaster preparedness, mitigation, and response on policies that will ensure humanitarian assistance in areas with high levels of disaster risk, based on the results of the original PEER-supported research. The second aim is to develop a collaborative work plan with municipal and provincial authorities in the target communities in order to introduce the recommended policies in their strategic planning and investment process in preparation for potential disasters.

After receiving the supplemental funds in mid-August 2017, Dr. Cantillo recruited two young researchers as members of the team that will carry out the supplemental effort, both of whom are from the Master’s in Civil Engineering program at the Universidad del Norte—Javier Echavez and Alejandro Urzola. During the remainder of the quarter ending September 30, 2017, the new team members were trained on the basic concepts of humanitarian logistics and antecedents of the project. The team has also reached out to the relevant local authorities and designed two types of surveys that will be used to collect information on the actual conditions of the entire emergency system. The surveys will be conducted in the municipalities at the highest risk in Colombia’s Atlantic Department: Manati, Campo de la Cruz, Santa Lucia, Candelaria, Repelón, Ponedera, and Suan. The first instrument consists of a perception survey for inhabitants to identify how much do they know about their local emergency system and if they believe they would be safe during a disaster event. The other one is intended for government officials and will be used to collect information the emergency supply system, the plans the officials have, and the infrastructure they expect to rely on in carrying them out. For the remaining months of the year, Dr. Cantillo and his team plan to continue designing the training program they will implement. A few field trips to the selected communities are also planned, and training materials and a project website will be designed in preparation for launching the training and workshops component of the activity in 2018.
 

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