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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
In the first three months of 2014, Dr. Cantillo and his research team worked on several aspects of their base structure for strategic humanitarian logistics models, incorporating both deprivation costs and operational costs. They have estimated econometric models and defined several characteristics and approaches for calculating deprivation costs. They have recently drafted a paper entitled “Discrete choice approximation to Deprivation Costs,” which was accepted for presentation at the May 2014 Production and Operations Management Society Annual Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. In addition, the team prepared “A Model for Estimating Deprivation Costs in Humanitarian Logistics” for presentation in June at the Pan-American Conference of Traffic and Transportation Engineering and Logistics in Santander, Spain.
 
Future plans include taking the methodologies used in the study thus far to design a survey to estimate new models of choice scenarios. Dr. Cantillo and three of his students are expected to visit their U.S. partner at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute June 17 to July 2, during which they will participate in a workshop and discuss data and findings from the previous survey and lessons learned from the project to date.
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