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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 to March 2016
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, ase 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
This team’s main activities in the last quarter of 2014 focused on designing the survey for their project and using it to collect data in several regions of Colombia. They surveyed 560 people, all of whom were householders from regions impacted by natural disasters, such as the floods occurred between 2010 and 2011 in the Colombian Caribbean region and the earthquake that struck the heart of the country’s coffee region in 1999. These regions include cities such as Barranquilla, Cartagena, and Sahagún, as well as municipalities in the south of the Atlántico Department such as Santa Lucía, Suan, Campo de la Cruz and Candelaria. The team also visited Caimito, a town located at the riverside of San Jorge, in the Sucre Department, and Armenia, Quindío. The latter city was heavily impacted affected by an 6.2 magnitude earthquake in 1999, which killed about 1000 people. While in Armenia, the team also interviewed many people asking about their experiences during the earthquake and its aftermath. Additionally, they met with the Operations Manager at the local Red Cross office to gather information about the disaster response management and their current practices for dealing with such events.

With the consolidated data gathered from the previous work, Dr. Cantillo and his group are now working on econometric models to estimate deprivation costs, willingness to pay, and other complex models considering latent variables. They have also drafted three articles that have been submitted to different journals of considerable impact factor. Each one focused on different topics regarding humanitarian logistics and timely response to people affected by disasters. Two new master’s students will be joining the project in the coming months, with one being supported by funds from the Colombian science agency Colciencias. The team’s work will focus on writing other articles on strategic humanitarian logistics modelling for pre-positioning supplies and also on estimating deprivation cost models considering latent variables.

Another key recent highlight was the announcement that PhD Student Luis Macea received a grant of 30,000 Swedish krona (about $3580) from the Volvo Research and Educational Foundations to visit Prof. Miguel Jaller at the University of California, Davis. Prof. Jaller is a former PhD student of Prof. José Holguín-Veras, the U.S. partner on this PEER project. During the research visit Mr. Macea will study the vulnerability of the transportation network and its effects on the identification of optimal routes by using strategic logistic models to analyze urban freight distribution, particularly in the case of disruptions caused by disasters. 
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