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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
Building off their work in the first half of 2014, Dr. Cantillo and his research team spent the third quarter finalizing the design of the second survey so that it adequately addresses risk perception indexes and the determining factors of decisions to buy life sustaining items or not. The results of this survey will be crucial to humanitarian logistics models at both the strategic level, which includes facility and supply locations, and the operational level that focuses on on-the-ground assistance for affected individuals. The team also completed a 40-person pilot survey to test the feasibility of their ideas, as well as to preempt difficulties and questions that may arise in final iterations of the surveys.

Dr. Cantillo and his team also hosted the International Panel on Humanitarian Logistics in Developing Countries event that brought together a number of individuals and public and private organizations committed to disaster preparedness and response. The event took place on July 31, 2014 at the Universidad del Norte under the auspices of Uninorte en Veran; an annual summer cultural and academic exchange program. The even had a turnout of 101 people, primarily comprising students and senior members of national and international academia, including Dr. Cantillo’s US-based partner, Prof. Holguin-Veras of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. This panel highlighted the growing interest of humanitarian logistics in Columbia and will hopefully prove the impetus for greater international and cross-sector collaboration.

In the coming months, Dr. Cantillo’s team will conclude their survey phase and will take their initial steps toward estimating and establishing deprivation cost models. Additionally, they will present the theories and modeling behind their work in the Journal of Operations Management – Special Issue on Empirically Grounded Research in Humanitarian Operations Management in December. The team will also be expanded to include two new investigators to help tackle these new tasks.
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