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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
Besides PI Dr. Victor Cantillo, this PEER project team also includes two master’s students and two PhD students, with one of the latter also being a professor at Universidad Del Norte. Since launching the project, the team has held teleconferences with the U.S. partner at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). They have focused mainly on developing the structure of the humanitarian logistic (HL) model, with which they hope to be able to estimate deprivation costs, optimization models in humanitarian logistics, heuristics for solving HL models, and econometric models. The team designed a stated preferences survey given to 400 people along the coastal Caribbean, including places affected by natural disasters in the last three years. The team also engaged in literary review, data collection, and data analysis. The survey and data analysis made possible the estimation of deprivation costs, which were shown to be statistically significant and potent enough to be incorporated into the humanitarian logistical models. The team presented abstracts on deprivation costs for both the 2014 Pan-American Conference of Traffic and Transportation Engineering and Logistics (PANAM) in Santander, Spain, and the 2014 Production and Operations Management Society Annual Conference (POMS) in Atlanta, Georgia. Both papers were accepted for presentation.
In the coming months, the team is planning to work on refining the findings in the articles accepted in the aforementioned conferences. They will take advantage of previous experience to conduct a new set of surveys in order to estimate new models of choice scenarios of life sustaining items. In addition, the PI and three members of his research team will visit the U.S. collaborator at RPI beginning in mid-June 2014.
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