Adaptability Key For Both Successful Humanitarian Response, Global Business Operations

A recent whitepaper co-authored by Direct Relief and Esri demonstrates how humanitarian aid organizations can provide a helpful model for businesses navigating a complex global marketplace.


Health Mapping

Space-time hotspot mapping of Beirut following the port explosion revealed neighborhood-level patterns of movement in relation to hospitals, health clinics and the ongoing relief effort in and around the port. (Direct Relief Story Map)

Humanitarian aid organizations may provide a helpful model for businesses aiming to deliver products to consumers as quickly and efficiently as possible within a dynamic and complex global marketplace.

That’s according to a recent whitepaper published in the Journal of Supply Chain Management, Logistics, and Procurement.

The paper was co-authored by Andrew Schroeder, Direct Relief’s Vice President of Research and Analysis, and Cindy Elliott, Head of Commercial Industry Solutions at Esri, and the publication outlines how strategies used by humanitarian aid organizations to route lifesaving medical aid to communities in need can also be employed by businesses to work around logistical hurdles, like severe weather, supply chain disruptions, and changing demand within a global marketplace.

The strategy employed by Direct Relief, which has helped the organizations consistently respond to multiple emergent crises at once, is known as adaptive logistics. The approach involves predicting interruptions due to weather or conflict, identifying alternate routes and resources, and adjusting to changes in need among the communities affected.

Adaptability has become particularly important at Direct Relief as humanitarian crises become more severe and less predictable due to climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic, while daily disruptions to the global supply chain only compound the challenge of routing medical aid in a timely and efficient manner.

When responding to a disaster, the organizationb begins by assessing the needs of those affected on the ground. Direct Relief’s global network of more than 2,500 organizations serves as a source of real-time information that communicates who needs help, where they are, and what resources are needed most. These local contacts not only help Direct Relief deliver aid in a targeted way, but alsoboffer logistical support in the last-mile transportation of aid and resources.

For example, when responding to the 2020 Beirut explosion in Lebanon, which disrupted businesses and critical infrastructure, including a key port of entry, Direct Relief leveraged a network of in-country expatriates that helped the organization get clearance from the State Department for a 60-ton airlift of medical aid. Supplies were quickly routed to local hospitals that Direct Relief had existing relationships with through its previous work in the country.

In addition to its local networks, Direct Relief uses geospatial technology to gather real-time data on how a disaster is impacting a community, such as information about how and where people are evacuating, what kinds of medical resources are lacking, and who is most vulnerable due to socioeconomic status, age, and access to information.

During the 2018 Camp Fire response in Butte County, California, for example, Direct Relief was able to use geospatial data to predict potential evacuee zones and route medical aid accordingly.

While the aim may be different, businesses can adopt similar strategies to preempt consumer demand, predict disruptions in supply chains, and find alternate routes to effectively deliver products to consumers within a complex and ever-changing global marketplace.

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