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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
According to the information obtained from the state preference surveys conducted during the past months (September to November, 2014), the project team started to establish the first econometric models to assess the externality derived from the deprivation time in a scenario of a disaster with consideration given to other life sustaining items such as a food basket/kit. The team had already explored econometric approaches using the Multinomial Logit (MNL) technique, which assumes the absence of taste heterogeneity amongst decision-makers, and decided to explore more complex models and more flexible as well. Thus, some Mixed Logit models were estimated, allowing the inclusion of taste heterogeneity in individuals along with systematic variations in observable attributes such as socio-economic variables. Additionally, the team compared two welfare measures: the change in consumer surplus and the marginal rate of substitution. It was possible to demonstrate that the externality derived from delays in the supply of critical commodities is increasing and convex in relation to the deprivation time.

The project team also continued its work on the formulation of a humanitarian logistic model for pre-positioning supplies. So far, they have programed the model in Gams, to run it using the CPLEX solver and are analyzing the behavior of the model and making changes on the parameters to provide a sensitivity analysis to show how they impact the number of facilities to locate and either private or deprivation costs. In respect to the case of study, the team used data from a 2010-2011 Colombian flood event and gathered geographical information related to affected population in flooded areas such as road and river networks and the location of airports and fluvial ports, among other data. In addition, the costs of potential facilities were estimated using real data. The parameters associated with unitary transportation cost were estimated with regard to the different modes of transportation (air, river, road), with some resulting from a multi-modal assignment.

The team also continued researching information about existing risk management models in Colombia and other countries in Latin America and southwest Asia. This information includes a conceptual and methodological framework that supports each model, as well as which actions and/or activities to carry out in order to provide relief response in each country. The team is also interested in the organizational structure of relief agencies and how they interact and coordinate their efforts with other organizations. As a reference, the team has studied countries including Chile, Mexico, El Salvador and Thailand as they are developing countries and have historically faced major challenges in prevention and disaster management.

In the next months, the team plans to keep making advances on the econometric modelling, incorporating latent variables to the utility functions in order to study non-observable attributes such as risk perception and determine their impact on the willingness to pay. They will also finish the drafting of the article on strategic humanitarian logistic models, as well as the study case currently being developing. Team member Luis Macea was awarded the VREF (Volvo Research and Educational Foundations) Study Visit Grant which will facilitate his study visit to UC Davis for the second half of the year. In the next months, PI Víctor Cantillo and Luis Macea will visit UC Davis and RPI to work with professors Miguel Jaller and Jose Holguín. Dr. Cantillo was also invited to present the project at the session on humanitarian logistics at Informs, 2015 which will take place in Philadelphia at the beginning of November. 
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