Humanitarian Logistics. The development of humanitarian logistics in disaster relief operations after the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004

Bachelor Thesis, 2015

96 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. General Data of the Catastrophes
2.1 Impacts Directly Connected to the Catastrophes

3. Classification of Disaster Relief Operations into Different Phases
3.1 The Disaster Relief Cycle

4. Preparation
4.1 Prevention Measures Undertaken by Local Authorities
4.1.1 Private Mitigation and Awareness-Raising Measures for Locals
4.2 Previous Experiences of Aid Agencies in the Crisis Regions

5. Immediate Response
5.1 Governmental Influence on the Outcome of the Immediate Response Phase
5.2 Infrastructural Issues during the Phase of Immediate Response
5.3 Cooperation among Involved Actors
5.4 Coordination among Involved Actors
5.5 The Issue of Donations

6. Recovery
6.1 Housing
6.2 Involvement of the Local Population
6.3 Additional Issues

7. Influencing Factors on the Performance of Humanitarian Logistics

8. Empirical Research Methods
8.1 Distinguishing Between Qualitative Research and Quantitative Research
8.2 Procedure
8.3 Preparation and Collection of Data
8.3.1 Research Questions
8.4 Data Analysis
8.4.1 Summarizing Content Analysis in Detail
8.5 Limitations of the Content Analysis

9. Findings
9.1 The Major Challenges in Humanitarian Logistics Operations
9.2 The Influence of the Development Status of a Country on Humanitarian Logistics Operations
9.3 Improvements Regarding Cooperation and Coordination among Aid Agencies Since 2004
9.4 The Development of Humanitarian Logistics After 2004

10. Summary of Findings and Recommendations

11. Conclusion

12. Bibliography

13. Appendix

List of Figures

Figure 1: Disaster Management Response Stages

Figure 2: Disaster Management Cycle

“For Lena, my family and my friends. Without you life would not be nearly as beautiful as it is! “

“Für Lena, meine Familie und meine Freunde. Ohne euch wäre das Leben nicht annähernd so schön! “


Since the average number of disasters per year increased over the last few years, also the interest in humanitarian logistics amplified. The purpose of humanitarian logistics is to deliver relief supplies efficiently into affected regions in order to aid people in need.

The aim of this paper is to determine if a positive development in the field of humanitarian logistics took place since 2004. Moreover it shall be investigated if the development status of a country has an influence on the efficiency in disaster relief operations. Therefore, operations in the field of humanitarian logistics will be divided into three phases in the theoretical part of this paper, namely: preparation, immediate response and recovery. Each phase will be described in detail at the beginning of this bachelor thesis and subsequently, three different disaster relief operations, which were conducted in 2004, 2010 and 2011, will be compared by reference to these phases. The selection of the catastrophes was based on two criterions: firstly, the catastrophes had to be similar in their magnitude and secondly, at least one disaster relief operation had to be conducted in an industrialized country.

Based on the theoretical part of this paper, interviews with experts were conducted in order to gain insights into their way of thinking. The hypothesis “There is a connection between the efficiency in a disaster relief operation and the development status of the country in which the operation is conducted” should serve as basis for this research. Furthermore, at the end of this paper it should be determined if the development in the field of humanitarian logistics is considered as positive by the experts or if there is a standstill in this regard.

The key words of this paper are: The development of humanitarian logistics, coordination in disaster relief operations, cooperation among aid agencies, South-East Asia 2004, Haiti 2010 and Japan 2011.


Da die durchschnittliche Anzahl an Katastrophen pro Jahr in den letzten Jahren zugenommen hat, steigt auch das Interesse an der humanitären Logistik. Diese hat die Aufgabe Hilfsgüter möglichst effizient in die betroffenen Regionen zu liefern und somit Menschen in Not zu helfen.

Das Ziel dieser Arbeit ist es festzustellen ob eine positive Entwicklung im Bereich der humanitären Logistik seit 2004 stattgefunden hat. Darüber hinaus soll untersucht werden ob sich der Entwicklungsgrad eines Landes auf die Effizienz in humanitär-logistischen Einsätzen auswirkt. Hierfür werden humanitäre Hilfseinsätze im theoretischen Teil der Arbeit in drei Phasen unterteilt: Vorbereitung, Sofortreaktion und Wiederaufbau. Jede einzelne Phase wird anfangs genau beschrieben und anschließend werden drei verschiedene Hilfseinsätze aus den Jahren 2004, 2010 und 2011 basierend auf diesen Phasen verglichen. Die Auswahl der Katastrophen erfolgte anhand von zwei Kriterien: Erstens musste ein ähnliches Ausmaß der Katastrophen gegeben sein und zweitens musste zumindest ein Hilfseinsatz in einem Industrieland stattgefunden haben.

Basierend auf dem theoretischen Teil dieser Arbeit wurden Experteninterviews durchgeführt um Einsicht in deren Denkweise zu erhalten. Als Basis für diese Forschung soll die Hypothese „Es gibt einen Zusammenhang zwischen der Effizienz in einem Katastropheneinsatz und dem Entwicklungsstand des Landes in dem dieser Einsatz durchgeführt wird“ dienen. Darüber hinaus soll am Ende der Arbeit festgestellt werden, ob die Entwicklung im Bereich der humanitären Logistik von den Experten als positiv betrachtet wird oder ob es diesbezüglich einen Stillstand gibt.

Schlüsselwörter dieser Arbeit sind: Entwicklung der humanitären Logistik, Koordination bei Katastropheneinsätzen, Kooperation unter Hilfsorganisationen, Südostasien 2004, Haiti 2010 und Japan 2011.

1. Introduction

The constant increase of natural disasters is putting pressure on the governments and humanitarian aid organizations to develop adequate tools that ensure an efficient disaster response. Between 1980 and 2009, the number of disasters has quadrupled (Maon, Lindgreen, & Vanhamme, 2009), and due to the climate change, a further increase is predicted. (Iwata, Ito, & Managi, 2014)

Nowadays, the population of developing countries, mostly geographically located in high-risk areas, is growing. This leads to a larger concentration of assets in these regions (Kumar & Havey, 2013). As a result, the economic impacts caused by natural disasters and the amount of people affected by those will rise in the future. (Holguín-Veras, Jaller, Van Wassenhove, Pérez, & Wachtendorf, 2012)

In the beginning of the third millennium, catastrophes like the Indian Ocean tsunami or the Sichuan earthquake in China drew attention to the world’s changing environment. In 2010, an earthquake destroyed large parts of Haiti, leaving behind devastation and chaos. Only a few months later, Pakistan faced a disastrous flood. (de la Torre, Dolinskaya, & Smilowitz, 2012)

In the aftermath of such major disasters, countries are most of the time dependent on external assistance. In addition to international governments, humanitarian organizations play a crucial role in disaster relief operations due to their knowledge and resources. (Kunz & Reiner, 2012)

A major challenge for these organizations is to establish a supply chain within the shortest time possible. Logistics therefore is a key success factor for the disaster response. It serves as a link between disaster preparedness and immediate response and it is central for the effectiveness of major humanitarian programs such as food, water, health and sanitation. (da Costa, Campos, & Bandeira, 2012)

Hence effectiveness is determined by a timely delivery of the right relief items to meet the needs of the affected population. (Kunz & Reiner, 2012)

To work as effective as possible, humanitarian aid organizations prioritize two functions: To secure an efficient use of scare resources and to manage the aids delivered by various donors (Liberatore, Ortuno, Tirado, Vitoriano, & Scaparra, 2014). Especially the second function turns out to be very challenging since a high degree of uncertainty exists concerning the amount and the delivering time of donations. Furthermore, the high quantity of actors involved in humanitarian aid operations contributes to an increase in the complexity of coordinative activities. (Madu & Kuei, 2014)

Another challenge in humanitarian operations is the circumstance that it is often impossible to know when, where and to what scale disasters will occur (Kumar & Havey, 2013). But when it occurs, the actors involved have to deal with an increase in demand for critical supplies; moreover the infrastructure is mostly destructed. Hence, such a circumstance will lead to the disruption of private sector supply chains. (Holguín-Veras, Jaller, & Wachtendorf, 2012)

This paper investigates the different phases of disaster relief operations. Subsequently, these phases will be applied to the disaster relief operations after the tsunami in South-East Asia in 2004, the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and the Tohoku earthquake, which was followed by the nuclear disaster in Fukushima in 2011. Similarities in the magnitude of these disasters existed, however it has to be mentioned that Japan differed in its basic requirements since it is an industrialized country and therefore it will be used to determine if the stage of development of a country affects humanitarian aid operations in any form. The focus of the empirical survey will be on the major challenges of humanitarian logistics. The aim of the paper is to determine if the efficiency in a disaster relief operation is influenced by the development status of the country in which the operation is conducted and if improvements since 2004 have taken place.

2. General Data of the Catastrophes

The three disasters discussed in this paper have some characteristics in common: Every single disaster was large in scale and led to unique challenges. In the case of South-East Asia, an earthquake with the Richter scale magnitude of 9.3 located near to the east coast of Sumatra caused a tsunami whereby the waves reached a height up to 30 meters. (Phillips, Nael, Wikle, Subanthore, & Hyrapiet, 2008)

In January 2010, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 was lasting for 30 seconds and devastated large parts of Haiti. The epicentre was located 25 kilometres south-west from the capital city, Port-au-Prince. (Caritas International, 2015)

Matters were complicated further by the fact that Haiti was recognized as the poorest country in the Western hemisphere prior the disaster. This fact had, in turn, negative impacts on the death toll after the calamity(Jobe, 2011). Furthermore the situation was aggravated by the onset of the hurricane season that followed the catastrophe (Red Cross, 2013). In general, this earthquake led to one of the largest human tragedies in the history of the Americas. (Holguín-Veras, Jaller, & Wachtendorf, 2012)

On the 11th of March 2011, Japan faced three catastrophes. At first an earthquake, whose epicentre was located 130 kilometres east of the city of Sendai, lasted for five minutes and reached a magnitude up to 9.0 (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014). The earthquake was followed by 50 aftershocks and triggered a tsunami that affected 500 kilometres of Japans coastal area (da Costa, Campos, & Bandeira, 2012). Three Japanese prefectures were affected, namely Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima. (Iwata, Ito, & Managi, 2014)

Fukushima was especially hard hit; after the earthquake, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex undertook an automatic shutdown. In this case, emergency generators provide the electricity to run the water pumps necessary to cool the nuclear reactors. However, the tsunami-waves overtopped the protective walls of the complex, what caused the flooding of the emergency generators and led to the third catastrophe known as the Fukushima nuclear disaster. (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014)

2.1 Impacts Directly Connected to the Catastrophes

Even though all of the three natural disasters were large in scale, significant differences in the death tolls existed. This fact is linked to the per capita gross domestic product of the affected countries; while this ratio is high in Japan, it is relatively low in countries such as Haiti or Indonesia. That factor, in turn, influences the preparation expenditures of public and private actors and therefore, Japan suffered fewer deaths than Haiti or the countries in the South-East Asian region. In other words, there is a connection between a countries’ gross domestic product per capita and the death toll after a catastrophe. (Toya & Skidmore, 2007)

Prior to the South-East Asian catastrophe, experience with tsunamis was non-existent and therefore, it hit the population with surprise. 15 countries were affected and at least 230.000 people were killed (Höfler, 2014), by including the number of unresolved cases, the death toll connected with the tsunami rises up to 280.000. (Fagotto, 2014)

In Haiti, more than 3.000.000 people were either injured or homeless and had no access to food or water. (Holguín-Veras, Jaller, & Wachtendorf, 2012) According to the United Nations, at least 250.000 people died. Representatives of the government even assume that 316.000 people were killed, until now accurate numbers are not available due to the catastrophic situation immediately after the earthquake. (Caritas International, 2015)

Also the physical damage was enormous: Almost 190.000 houses were badly harmed, moreover 105.000 buildings were completely destroyed (Zissman et al., 2014). The displaced citizens either settled in spontaneous camps or moved to outlying areas.(Red Cross, 2013)

Just like in Haiti one year before, one of the major reasons that caused deaths in Japan in 2011 was the impact of natural disasters, which is mostly referable to the extent of the Tohoku earthquake. In an official report by the National Police Agency of Japan in August 2011, 15.698 deaths were estimated and 4.666 people were still missing(Kumar & Havey, 2013). In total, more than 41.000.000 people were directly affected by the extreme shaking of the quake. (Davis, Keilis-Borok, Kossobokov, & Soloviev, 2012) Additionally, 470.000 people needed to be evacuated and many households were left without electricity.(Japanese Embassy, 2013)

The physical damage was similar to Haiti: Approximately 127.000 buildings collapsed and 232.083 buildings were partially destroyed (Davis, Keilis-Borok, Kossobokov, & Soloviev, 2012). Nevertheless, the death toll in Japan was far lower than it was in Haiti and in the South-East Asian region.

3. Classification of Disaster Relief Operations into Different Phases

In the literature for humanitarian logistics, disaster relief operations are divided into different phases, whereby each stage requires a different approach by humanitarian aid organizations. At a minimum, experts distinguish between preparedness activities and post-disaster activities. (Heaslip & Barber, Using the military in disaster relief: systemising challenges and opportunities, 2014)

Altay and Green (2006) made a more detailed distinction by differentiating general preparedness activities from mitigation and further by splitting the post disaster activities into immediate relief activities and long term recovery activities.

The aim of mitigation and preparedness actions is to reduce the economic, social and physical impacts of a catastrophe. Activities in these phases are executed before a disaster occurs and include, among others, the pre-positioning of critical supplies, the development of response plans and the improvement of building codes. (Holguín-Veras, Pérez, Jaller, van Wassenhove, & Aros-Vera, 2013)

Furthermore it is important to constantly evaluate the natural disaster risk. Based on the evaluation, the government has the responsibility to develop adequate policies and to build awareness through broad based planning for the phase of immediate response and through the establishment of training programs for the local population. (Perry, 2007)

The first activities immediately after far-reaching catastrophes include needs assessment and information sharing between responding actors (Perry, 2007). Assessment of needs should ensure that the right quantity of appropriate aid is delivered directly to those affected. (Kumar & Havey, 2013)

In further consequence critical supplies are distributed, temporary shelters are constructed and material is procured to rebuild the critical infrastructure including airports and harbours. All these actions take place at a time of extreme needs, scarce resources and negatively affected supporting systems (Holguín-Veras, Pérez, Jaller, van Wassenhove, & Aros-Vera, 2013). Anyhow, it is crucial to complete these activities in a short period of time, hence the phase of immediate response is highly challenging. (Vohr, 2011)

The phases of immediate response and recovery are to some extent fulfilled parallel. The focus during the phase of recovery is to aid victims and to reestablish communities (Kovács & Spens, 2007). Further activities in this phase involve clearing of debris and rebuilding of the general infrastructure. (Kumar & Havey, 2013)

Next to different activities, the phases of disaster relief also vary significantly in their duration. Preparedness activities can be performed years prior to the occurrence of a disaster, consequently this stage usually lasts the longest. In contrary, the phase of immediate response lasts, at a maximum, a few days since its actions need to be completed as soon as possible in order to save lives. The recovery phase can, depending on the dimension of the catastrophe, last between a few months and a couple of years. (Kumar & Havey, 2013)

The activities within the different phases can be summarized with the figure about the disaster management response stages created by Kumar and Harvey.

Figure 1: Disaster Management Response Stages

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

(Kumar & Havey, 2013)

3.1 The Disaster Relief Cycle

Since the phases of disaster relief are connected to each other, the overall operation can be seen in terms of a cycle. The stage of recovery includes a learning element for future catastrophes within affected areas; therefore it is linked back to the phase of preparation. (Kovács & Spens, 2009)

Within the cycle, reconstruction is seen as both, a pre-disaster and a post-disaster activity. Post-disaster reconstruction includes reestablishment of facilities, infrastructure and services whereby these actions also include efforts to mitigate future disasters. (Hooper, 2014)

The following figure will show the disaster management cycle, whereby the disaster is seen as a short, single stage immediately followed by the emergency phase.

Figure 2: Disaster Management Cycle

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

(Safran, 2003)

For this paper, the disaster relief operations will be divided into three phases: Preparation, immediate response and recovery.

4. Preparation

An extensive preparation is the basic requirement to be able to respond successfully to a calamity (Pettit & Beresford, 2009). In terms of logistics, preparation activities include setting up the overall coordination framework, establishing logistics operations and process management, recruiting skilled disaster relief forces and preparing financial resources. (Heaslip & Barber, Using the military in disaster relief: systemising challenges and opportunities, 2014)

Further, the phase of preparation includes elements such as updating emergency response plans, stocking up medical and disaster relief supplies, identifying vulnerabilities and arranging information events for the local population. (Davis, Keilis-Borok, Kossobokov, & Soloviev, 2012)

In this phase the role of both, local communities and authorities is of paramount importance. The responsibility for governments is to provide disaster prevention through an adequate architecture of the infrastructure and through the education of locals, for instance with the aid of emergency response drills. Local communities are in charge for private mitigation through self-protective actions such as investing in building reinforcement or moving to areas which are less prone to natural disasters. (Iwata, Ito, & Managi, 2014)

However, protective public mitigation efforts depend on a country´s wealth. In general, affluent countries such as Japan have more opportunities to invest in effective disaster prevention projects. (Iwata, Ito, & Managi, 2014) This fact will be investigated in detail under the next subtopic.

4.1 Prevention Measures Undertaken by Local Authorities

Local authorities play a key role in the phase of preparation. As mentioned above, the financial strength of a country has direct impact on its preparation performance. For example, before the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, the majority of the countries had neither installed any early warning systems nor constructed protective tsunami breakwaters. These failures were, among others, also referable to the weak financial situation of the affected governments. (Symonds, 2005)

The situation in Haiti, where financial resources were not available at all, was similar. Before 2010, approximately 80% of the social services were financed by international aid organizations and civil actors. Furthermore, the earthquake hit the country during a time, where its internal capacity to respond to large scale catastrophes was at its lowest through previous decades of political, social and economic turmoil.(Holguín-Veras, Jaller, & Wachtendorf, 2012)

Based on these issues, Haiti did not invest in critical infrastructure. As a result, the airport in Port-au-Prince was poorly equipped and could not handle the sudden burst of traffic following the quake. Experts stated that technological incompatibility and physical capacity constraints further created serious infrastructural bottlenecks. (Fawcett & Fawcett, 2013)

The situation in Japan was different because financial resources existed. Hence, the country did not only invest in loss-mitigating measures, it also had resources to build protective tsunami breakwaters and dykes. (Esteban et al., 2013)

Furthermore, the Tohoku earthquake in Japan was predicted for the first time in 2001. Knowing about upcoming catastrophes is leading to an increase in the awareness of local officials and private citizens (Davis, Keilis-Borok, Kossobokov, & Soloviev, 2012). In January 2011, only two months before the quake occurred, the governmental Headquarters of Earthquake Research Promotion released another forecast stating that there is a 99% probability of an earthquake-event with a magnitude up to 8.0 in the northern Honshu region (including Tohoku) within the next 30 years. (Iwata, Ito, & Managi, 2014)

Unfortunately, the forecasts did not assume that the earthquake will have a magnitude of 9.0. Thus, some of the coastal protection works, such as tsunami walls, breakwaters or forests, were overwhelmed by the waves and suffered heavy damage. Nevertheless, these protective efforts are one of the major reasons for the comparatively low death toll connected to the tsunami in Japan. (Esteban et al., 2013)

For instance, such breakwaters were also used at the Sendai Airport. Although the waves overtopped these walls, it reduced the impact of the tsunami and serious damages were prevented. Only six days after the catastrophe, the Sendai Airport was back in operation. Unlike Haiti, where the piers and cranes of the harbor in Port-au-Prince were completely destroyed, the harbor in Sendai was, based on its earthquake-resistant architecture, functioning. Since airports and harbors are highly significant for the speed of a disaster relief response, these examples show the importance of investing in critical infrastructure. (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014)

In addition, the early warning system for tsunamis installed in Japan issued alerts throughout the Japanese east coast immediately after the earthquake. (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014) Similar early warning systems were largely missing in South-East Asia and therefore, the population was hit with surprise. (Aini, Fakhru´l-Razi, Ahmad-Rozi, & Fuad, 2011)

Another part of the governmental preparation activities in Japan included pre-positioning of critical supplies such as blankets, meals ready to eat or water. However, it has to be mentioned that miscalculations led to shortages (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014). Prepositioning of supplies was also applied in Haiti and the Dominican Republic (Holguín-Veras, Jaller, & Wachtendorf, 2012); but one critical commodity was overlooked: fuel. Due to this, planes were not able to leave the airport and occupied the ground space. As a consequence, aircrafts that cared emergency supplies were not able to land. Since investments to extend the capacity of the airport were not made before the disaster, a chaos emerged and efficiency suffered. (Apte, 2010)

The differences in construction codes further led to the great differences between the death tolls after the catastrophes in Haiti, South-East Asia and Japan. While these codes are highly technical advanced in Japan and minimize structural failure in tall buildings (Nakanishi, Matsuo, & Black, 2013), Haiti and many affected regions in South-East Asia were lacking appropriate construction standards. Moreover, the Japanese government had preliminary agreements with construction and logistic companies to be able to respond quickly to a catastrophe prior to 2011. (Tatham & Houghton, The wicked problem of humanitarian logistics in disaster relief aid, 2011)

In general, Japans seismic design and construction practices kept the physical damage to a minimum resulting in a relatively low loss of lives considering the intensity of the Tohoku earthquake (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014). In contrast, although Haiti is located in an area prone to be affected by disasters, buildings were mostly constructed with a mixture of weak cement combined with salty sand or brittle steel. Based on decades of unsupervised construction permitted by local authorities, buildings were not able to resist the quake (Tatham & Houghton, The wicked problem of humanitarian logistics in disaster relief aid, 2011). In South-East Asia, similar problems arose based on a lack of construction experts involved in the early preparation phase. These shortcomings need to be remedied in the future. (Perry, 2007)

4.1.1 Private Mitigation and Awareness-Raising Measures for Locals

To lower death tolls, building awareness with reference to the dangers in areas that are prone to natural disasters is necessary. Evidence for the high importance of awareness-raising measures is given by comparing the data between South-East Asia 2004 and Japan 2011. While there was no awareness existing in South-East Asia 2004, the Japanese government undertook several steps to prepare its citizens for events such as a tsunami. (Esteban et al., 2013)

Private mitigation, on the other side, belongs to the private persons’ area of responsibility and aims to reach a high level of self-protection. If this target will be achieved is strongly connected to the income level of private households. In Japan, for instance, 29.2% of the total population prepares disaster goods and 40.3% own fire insurances. (Iwata, Ito, & Managi, 2014)

Another measure to increase private mitigation is to move from high-risk areas to lower-risk areas before a disaster occurs. Unfortunately, this approach was not implemented in South-East Asia prior to the tsunami in 2004 (Perry, 2007). Furthermore experience values concerning tsunami events were nonexistent; unlike in Japan, where tsunamis in the past raised the general awareness in this matter. (Esteban et al., 2013)

In contrast to the population of the affected countries in South-East Asia, citizens of the Tohoku Region in Japan were well trained (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014). After years of emergency drills, people knew how and where to evacuate immediately after the disaster. In addition, children are participating in evacuation exercises at least once a year at the “Disaster Preparedness Day” on the 1st of September. Through these measures, the awareness within the Japanese population is exceptionally high. (Esteban et al., 2013)

Haiti experienced many earthquakes, hurricanes and floods in the past, therefore people knew about the dangers of natural hazards. However, a lack of knowledge existed among pupils upwards the fifth grade. Moreover it has to be mentioned that most of the awareness-raising activities were accomplished by humanitarian aid agencies instead of the government. (Red Cross, 2013)

The success of preparedness efforts is also dependent on the willingness of people to follow the evacuation-instructions after a disaster (Kumar & Havey, 2013). For instance, although instructions in Japan included that vehicles should not be used, some residents used cars in order to escape. As a consequence, serious traffic jams arose and the mortality-rate during the evacuation increased. (Esteban et al., 2013)

4.2 Previous Experiences of Aid Agencies in the Crisis Regions

Since Haiti was facing many natural disasters in the past, humanitarian aid organizations were already operating within the country prior to the earthquake. In 2008, the country depended on international aid when a series of storms triggered massive flooding. (Holguín-Veras, Jaller, & Wachtendorf, 2012)

Similar was the situation in some parts of the affected regions in South-East Asia. Due to the civil commotions, many organizations were already present in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, before the first tsunami waves devastated the country. (Doctors Without Borders, 2005)

In the case of Haiti it is estimated that more than 3.000 humanitarian aid organizations had provided aid within the country before 2010, thus experiences existed and relationships were already established. (Tatham & Pettit, 2010)

Although there was a significant increase in the total number of attendant organizations after the Haitian earthquake, many non-governmental organizations even strengthened their efforts. This circumstance led to coordinative problems in the aftermath of the calamity. (Zissman et al., 2014)

To increase cooperation and coordination before a disaster occurs, the Logistics Cluster of the United Nations set up logistics trainings courses. The aim thereby is to create different teams of logisticians from different organizations. Some of these courses were targeted to humanitarians in Haiti prior to 2010. (Kovács & Spens, 2011)

To summarize the findings about the preparedness activities of local authorities and the population, it is obvious that Japan was better prepared than Haiti and the South-East Asian region (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014). According to Esteban et al. (2013), this circumstance is attributable to the fact that preparedness activities in Japan were taken seriously by local authorities and citizens. As a result, Tohoku was one of the most prepared coastal areas in the world for a tsunami emergency. Residents primarily gained knowledge with the aid of several disaster drills, an approach that would be advisable for all high-risk areas worldwide. (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014)

5. Immediate Response

During the phase of immediate response, the focus is on saving lives and preventing further damage. Therefore, humanitarian aid agencies provide instant support to improve health (Eriksson, 2009). Within this complex phase, where the achievement of high effectiveness is of primary importance, a supply chain gets established based on the previously completed needs assessment (Maon, Lindgreen, & Vanhamme, 2009); thus experienced workers as well as appropriate information- and communication flows are required. (Campbell & Jones, 2011)

In the aftermath of a catastrophe, external aid is mostly inevitable. Local markets, which usually allow buyers and sellers to transact for supplies, are often destroyed. As a consequence, the nature of economic activities changes due to the need of distributing relief aid to beneficiaries at no costs. Hence, in many cases humanitarian relief is the only alternative to loss of lives and suffering. (Holguín-Veras, Pérez, Jaller, van Wassenhove, & Aros-Vera, 2013)

Furthermore, social and logistics networks are disrupted and communicational systems that support information sharing may be impacted and unable to function. As a result, uncertainties concerning the conditions of the road and rail networks of affected areas arise. (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014)

Damaged communication systems also lead to difficulties in the allocation of critical supplies. After large scale disasters, information gaps frequently exist regarding: What is actually needed? Where is it needed? What is available at site? This situation gets even more complex due to a huge flow of inadequate donations that do not satisfy the needs of beneficiaries. (Holguín-Veras, Pérez, Jaller, van Wassenhove, & Aros-Vera, 2013)

Since the phase of immediate response is the most challenging stage in post-disaster humanitarian logistics, aid organizations typically send their top staffers at the onset of a crisis. This approach ensures a faster stabilization of the logistic situation. Once the situation is stabilized, a rotation of the teams takes place. (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014)

The main actors during the phase of immediate response are humanitarian organizations and governments, who have to act independently within the first hours after a catastrophe. Therefore, the performance of these actors will be analyzed in the following. Furthermore, additional influencing issues will be mentioned.

5.1 Governmental Influence on the Outcome of the Immediate Response Phase

The actions of a government during the phase of immediate response can either be supportive or obstructive. For instance, governments that mistrust relief organizations are more willing to restrict the entry of goods or staff in the disaster-affected country (Kunz & Reiner, 2012) while cooperative governments will most probably welcome humanitarian aid organizations on their territory. (McLachlin & Larson, 2011)

In addition, another influencing factor for a disaster relief operation is the stage of development of a country before a calamity occurred. In well-developed countries, staff for logistics activities can be hired locally and basic supplies can be purchased from regional providers. In less developed countries both, staff and basic supplies, mainly have to be imported. Furthermore, unlike to well-developed countries, the majority of tasks need to be managed by expatriate staff. (Kunz & Reiner, 2012)

Based on these and other socio-economical issues such as culture and religion, relief organizations need to adapt their operations to the context. This requirement affects the types of commodities that will be supplied and the way in which vehicles will conduct deliveries (de la Torre, Dolinskaya, & Smilowitz, 2012). Consequently, the performance of logistics during aid operations is influenced by socio-economical factors. (Dowty & Wallace, 2010)

In South-East Asia, immediate actions undertaken by most of the involved governments worked efficiently. In Sri Lanka and Malaysia, for instance, local authorities provided emergency shelters and distributed food to homeless people. Due to quickly initiated support measures by the government of India, the medical care for affected inhabitants was already assured before the first humanitarian organizations arrived. (Doctors Without Borders, 2005)

The situation in Haiti was different. Because countless adversities occurred in the past regarding the construction of buildings, many houses collapsed during the earthquake (Red Cross, 2013), including 14 out of 16 buildings that housed ministries. As a result, a high number of government workers, the leadership of the United Nations Mission for Stabilization in Haiti and the local leadership of the Catholic Church were killed. The loss of the leaders had significant influences on the overall disaster relief performance of humanitarian organizations since these individuals usually help to distribute aid locally. Consequently, organizations were forced to conclude the local distribution independently. (Holguín-Veras, Jaller, Van Wassenhove, Pérez, & Wachtendorf, 2012)

The initial situation in Japan in turn was better. Although the country faced three disasters at the same time, the local leadership survived and was able to lead the response. Furthermore, visible links for the outside help were provided; hence, the effectiveness of the response was higher than it was in the case of Haiti. This fact shows the high importance of construction activities during the preparation phase again. (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014)

Following the tsunami in the Tohoku Region, the Japanese government allocated different areas of responsibilities to the regional governments. However, bureaucracy was an obstacle in the relief response because some of the local governments only distributed supplies if it was within their area of responsibility. For instance, a hospital did not receive any of the needed supplies due to the missing flexibility. (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014)

Very flexible, on the other side, were the governments in many affected areas of the South-East Asian region. National rescue workers were mobilized immediately and saved many lives. (Doctors Without Borders, 2005) Haiti, on the contrary, faced a shortage of rescuers based on the above mentioned reasons. (Caritas International, 2015)

The situation in Japan was more complex: Due to the nuclear catastrophe, people living within a circuit of 20 kilometers to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex had to evacuate mandatorily. People living within a radius of 20 to 30 kilometers could decide whether to leave the area with no return or to stay indoors. People that stayed within the area did not receive any help during the first days since the nuclear crisis prevented the arrival of volunteers and supplies they needed. It seemed like this measure was not well-conceived. (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014)

5.2 Infrastructural Issues during the Phase of Immediate Response

Infrastructural issues are related to primary and secondary economic damages that appear after a calamity. Primary economic damage is the direct destruction of the infrastructure as for instance buildings or roads. Based on the primary economic damage, an economic loss arises (for example: stagnation in logistics). This loss represents the secondary economic damage.(Iwata, Ito, & Managi, 2014)

These damages were faced by humanitarian aid agencies during all of the three investigated disasters. In Japan, buildings were heavily impacted and private sector supply chains suffered major interruptions (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014). In Port-au-Prince and Leogane, Haiti, 80% respectively 90% of the buildings were destroyed and the electricity grid as well as the communication network collapsed. (Caritas International, 2015)

As a consequence of the damage, inventories (mainly critical supplies) of relief organizations were destroyed when three out of four massive warehouses kept by the United Nations collapsed in Port-au-Price. Since private supply chains were interrupted, it took more than two weeks for the surviving supermarkets in Port-au-Prince to reopen. Within the same time, private supply chains in Tohoku started to function again(Holguín-Veras, Jaller, & Wachtendorf, 2012). Anyhow, some of the distribution centers in Japan survived the catastrophe without major damages. (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014)

Furthermore, after the catastrophes in South-East Asia, Haiti and Japan, involved actors had to cope with fuel shortages. In Japan, many of the liquid storage tanks and pipelines in the Tohoku Region, which could have been used after the disaster, were destroyed based on a lack of anchorage to their footing. This could have been prevented with low-cost investments. (Davis, Keilis-Borok, Kossobokov, & Soloviev, 2012)

In disaster relief operations infrastructure situational factors play an important role. Effective performance of humanitarian logistics is strongly connected to the availability of road networks, railways, airports or power supplies (Chakravarty, 2011). A well developed road network will, for instance, facilitate the logistics operation while a poor road infrastructure leads to delays in the delivery time of relief supplies. (Kunz & Reiner, 2012)

According to Vohr (2011), next to the badly damaged communicational infrastructure, especially the mainly impassible road network bothered aid agencies in Haiti. Months after the quake, cleaning-up operations on major traffic arteries were still not finished. Consequently, debris blocked the streets (Holguín-Veras, Jaller, Van Wassenhove, Pérez, & Wachtendorf, 2012). In addition, governmental and military road blocks negatively impacted the accessibility of roads even further. Since maps were not available, humanitarian aid organizations needed to discover the best routes by driving and exploring. (de la Torre, Dolinskaya, & Smilowitz, 2012)

However, it has to be mentioned that the highway, which connects Haiti and the Dominican Republic, was repaired immediately due to the efforts of the Dominican government. This allowed foreign aid workers and international supplies to enter Port-au-Prince via Santo Domingo. (Holguín-Veras, Jaller, & Wachtendorf, 2012)

The situation in Japan was entirely different. Immediately after the tsunami, the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism decided that the main priority is to reopen the East-West arterials as soon as possible. These roads were from great importance since they connected the Tohoku Motorway to the affected coastal areas. Therefore, construction companies were taken under contract and paid to clear the roads from debris. Only one day after the tsunami, 11 out of 16 roads were passable again (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014). One week later, the cleaning operations were finished. (Holguín-Veras, Jaller, Van Wassenhove, Pérez, & Wachtendorf, 2012)

While in Japan full access to impacted cities was given within a few days, some areas in Haiti remained unreachable for vehicles. As a result, air drops were the only possibility for weeks. (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 2010)

Moreover humanitarian agencies that operated in early 2010 in Haiti faced safety deficiencies. Due to regular robberies while delivering, some organizations decided not to stop for any reason before reaching their final destinations. Additionally some agencies avoided to establish a pattern by varying routes and dispatch times. (de la Torre, Dolinskaya, & Smilowitz, 2012)

Furthermore, aid organizations had issues to deliver relief supplies based on a general shortage of trucks and information about local truck drivers. Thus, efficiency was lost since agencies were disconnected from the local knowhow and distribution channels (Holguín-Veras, Jaller, & Wachtendorf, 2012). A similar lack of suitable moving equipment (Perry, 2007) led to an increase in the usage of helicopters and airplanes after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. (Doctors Without Borders, 2005)

On the contrary, such a crisis was averted in Japan, where companies offered their support by lending trucks immediately after the tsunami. (Holguín-Veras, Jaller, & Wachtendorf, 2012)

The “truck crisis” in Haiti ended two weeks after the earthquake with the arrival of 390 trucks provided by private foundations and the government of the Dominican Republic. Moreover, humanitarian organizations got access to local truckers after the United Nations created a registry. (Holguín-Veras, Jaller, & Wachtendorf, 2012)

But not only road networks are important for disaster relief operations, also the presence of a functioning airport close to the crisis region will facilitate the delivery of relief aid. (Majewski, Navangul, & Heigh, 2010)

For instance, the airport in Haiti was damaged but the runway was usable, what allowed airplanes to land. Nevertheless, the high number of incoming planes created a logjam on the tarmac, aggravated through a fuel shortage as already mentioned. As a result, a 24 hour landing freeze was put in place on the second day and planes had to land in Santo Domingo. On the third day, the airport reopened with a priority landing system. For instance, due to the shortage of trucks, planes carrying these vehicles were prioritized. (Holguín-Veras, Jaller, & Wachtendorf, 2012)

The Sendai Airport in Japan was functioning as a hub before the catastrophe by handling 92.2% of the domestic and international cargo within the Tohoku Region. During the first days, when the airport was not operating due to cleaning-up operations, the eight regional aerodromes compensated for the loss of the Sendai Airport. The Tohoku Region was often criticized because of the over-construction of airports, but in the aftermath of the tsunami these aerodromes played a crucial role for the humanitarian logistics disaster relief operation (Minato & Morimoto, 2012). Furthermore, the airport in Fukushima was still operating, thus, involved actors had the opportunity to directly transport supplies into the nuclear contaminated area. (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014)

5.3 Cooperation among Involved Actors

When a disaster occurs, providing relief supplies as soon as possible is crucial to save lives. Therefore, humanitarian aid organizations, the government and military forces need to work as a team to be able to manage the exceptional conditions and to aid communities in crisis regions. (Madu & Kuei, 2014)

The challenge concerning cooperation consists of different perspectives on how to respond to a catastrophe by the involved individuals, groups and organizations. Different concepts and approaches to solve problems hamper the overall effectiveness of disaster relief operations. For instance, the perspective of the government often differs from the perspective of international communities. (Tatham & Houghton, 2011)

This issue was observed in Japan during the first days after the nuclear crisis in Fukushima. The main point of criticism was that the government focused too much on the nuclear reactor and in turn did not care enough about evacuees. It took one week until the first relief supplies provided by the government reached the survivors around Fukushima. Due to the community spirit of the Japanese a much worse outcome of the crisis was avoided. Citizens cooperated among themselves by sharing stored supplies with their neighbors. International organizations and local authorities addressed criticism to the Japanese government based on this procedure. (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014)

The contribution of Japanese companies during the disaster relief operation was of great importance. These companies knew that the supply chains were interrupted and that the public sector could not fill the gap. As a consequence, local officials were approached and aid was offered. At some point of the relief response, the government could not pay for the costs of distribution anymore. Nevertheless, most of the companies continued to work on a voluntary basis and overtook all costs of distribution (drivers and trucks) except fuel. (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014)

The main problem of cooperation in South-East Asia was that competition among aid agencies emerged and thus, information was not shared adequately. As a result, non-governmental organizations were working independently from the beginning. (Perry, 2007)

Cooperation between involved actors in Haiti, except the government due to above mentioned reasons, seemed to function better. For instance, several Evangelical churches in the Dominican Republic gathered supplies that were needed in Haiti. Subsequently, these goods were sent to the Social Service of Churches in Santo Domingo from where trucks transported them at first to a staging area in Jimaní, a small community at the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Afterwards, the supplies were carried in convoys to a distribution center in Port-au-Prince. (Holguín-Veras, Jaller, & Wachtendorf, 2012)

Such truck convoys were not executed in Fukushima due to the nuclear thread. Most of the truck drivers either unloaded carried supplies at the border to the Fukushima Prefecture or parked the trucks and left even though their destinations were located outside of the exclusion zone. At the height of the crisis, 36 fuel tankers were left 50 kilometers away from the city of Fukushima, which required sending drivers to retrieve the trucks and their critical cargo. Such procedures further exacerbated the fuel shortage. (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014)

Another positive strategy concerning the catastrophe in Haiti 2010 was implemented by the Dominican Red Cross. Immediately after the quake, a meeting was organized with 75 Haitian students that had received training in Santo Domingo. Afterwards, response teams were formed, whereby each team included at least one Haitian student. In further consequence, these teams were sent to the community of its Haitian member with the result that the efficiency of the response improved due to higher trust of community members combined with sacrificially support impelled by the community officials. Furthermore this tactics ensured that the aid reached its intended target. (Holguín-Veras, Jaller, & Wachtendorf, 2012)

Positive effects on the disaster relief operations in Haiti and South-East Asia were achieved through the commitment of the military. After the tsunami in 2004, the capacities of international organizations were limited. Hence, the participation of the military was essential since it provided additional capacity for air cargo (da Costa, Campos, & Bandeira, 2012). In Haiti, military transport was utilized to evacuate victims and transport aid workers into affected areas. In addition, Irish military logisticians supported humanitarian logisticians in the aftermath of the quake. (Heaslip & Barber, 2014)

One point of criticism during the disaster relief response in South-East Asia was that efficiency lacked due to a low usage of information sharing- and track and trace systems by involved organizations (Whiting & Ayala-Öström, 2009). In Haiti, a common operational picture of logistics was missing (Vohr, 2011). To prevent such lacks of efficiency in the future, World Vision Canada and other organizations are working on cooperative and coordinative systems with the aim to offer it to humanitarian agencies for a fee. (Heaslip, 2013)

5.4 Coordination among Involved Actors

The high number of existing international humanitarian organizations with different objectives increases the complexity of coordination in disaster relief operations (da Costa, Campos, & Bandeira, 2012). For that reason, experts feel certain that a centralized decision making process improves the overall effectiveness of humanitarian logistics. (Kumar & Havey, 2013)

Therefore, the United Nations introduced the “humanitarian cluster system” for areas, where coordination issues were seen as significant(Jensen, 2012). Currently, eleven clusters are determined composed of agriculture, camp coordination and management, early recovery, education, emergency shelter, emergency telecommunications, health, water/sanitation/hygiene, nutrition, protection and logistics. The responsibilities of the logistics cluster consist of preparedness (for example stockpiling) and emergency response regarding coordination. The global lead, and in further consequence the overall coordination for logistics in humanitarian operations, is executed by the World Food Programme. The core activity of the logistics cluster is the exchange of information with a focus on transport routes, infrastructure status and availability of transport resources (Jahre & Jensen, 2010). However, if and to what extent information is shared depends on the willingness and goodwill of humanitarian organizations.(Jensen, 2012)

The coordination efforts after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 were seen as inefficient since several relief activities for aid organizations within the logistics cluster were overlapping with the activities of other participants in different clusters. This led to the situation that some affected areas were not well served. (Jahre & Jensen, 2010)

Problems regarding coordination were different in Japan. Immediately after the tsunami it was determined that prefectures are responsible for major distribution centers and for the flow of supplies to smaller distribution centers managed by the cities. The cities, in turn, were responsible to accomplish the local deliveries of relief supplies. However, after the tsunami, cities were partially destroyed and officials were not able to organize the local distribution. This in turn forced prefectures, which mainly did not have the resources, to undertake these deliveries as well. As a result, a chaos emerged and relief supplies were allocated uncoordinated. Furthermore, a lack of a single command in post-disaster humanitarian logistics was deplored. (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014)

In Haiti, the United Nations applied its cluster system and coordinated international relief organizations (Zissman et al., 2014). Nevertheless, the overall coordination was hampered due to the fact that some individuals and smaller organizations acted independently without being registered by the United Nations. (Holguín-Veras, Jaller, & Wachtendorf, 2012)

Additionally, the logistics cluster did not only concentrate on coordinative activities. Due to the truck crises a trucking pipeline from Santo Domingo to Port-au-Prince for non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies was provided by the cluster lead at no costs. This measure led to two positive outcomes: On one site, a high percentage of truck load utilization was achieved and on the other site, the logistics cluster developed a better understanding concerning the needs and responses of the humanitarian community. (Tatham & Pettit, 2010)

Moreover, the commitment of the Joint Task Force Haiti, which brought order to the chaos of arriving material and personnel, was also important during the first days after the quake. (Vohr, 2011)

5.5 The Issue of Donations

Following a large scale disaster thousands of donors (such as governments, communities or individuals) send high amounts of supplies and equipments. The main problem regarding donations refers to the significant number of useless unsolicited donations that create complication for humanitarian logistics operations. Several experts state that this problem is as relevant as it was 60 years ago. (Holguín-Veras, Jaller, Van Wassenhove, Pérez, & Wachtendorf, 2012)

In many cases, rapid delivery of goods is not hampered by a lack of resources but rather by using resources to transport wrong types of goods. In other words, this issue leads to delays in the supply chain. (de la Torre, Dolinskaya, & Smilowitz, 2012)

To better coordinate donations, the Pan-American Health Organization implemented a priority system. This classification system divides supplies into high priority, low priority and non-priority items. High priority goods are supplies that are urgently needed at site while low priority goods will possibly be used in the future and need to be stored therefore (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014). Non-priority items, on the contrary, are inappropriate for the event, arrive unsorted or damaged, have surpassed expiry dates and are useless or of doubtful value. These goods are not needed at all (Holguín-Veras, Jaller, Van Wassenhove, Pérez, & Wachtendorf, 2012) and produce the major complications in disaster relief operations. (Holguín-Veras, Pérez, Jaller, van Wassenhove, & Aros-Vera, 2013)

The problem of handling wrong donations occurred in the aftermath of every investigated catastrophe. In Haiti, logisticians stated that the most significant obstacle to the response were unsolicited donations. Moreover, at the moment when the private sector started to produce again, the amount of unneeded supplies further increased. (Holguín-Veras, Jaller, Van Wassenhove, Pérez, & Wachtendorf, 2012)

Also the cost-effectiveness of transporting donations to Port-au-Prince was doubtful. For instance, due to news reports concerning water scarcity, countries from all over the world donated bottled water. The costs of transport for each bottle of water exceeded the costs of four bottles bought locally. If the amount of money was donated instead of paying for the transport, more water could have been provided for those affected. (Holguín-Veras, Jaller, & Wachtendorf, 2012)

Following the tsunami in South-East Asia, unnecessary goods caused a supply chain overload. As a result, airports were obstructed and ports and customs areas were blocked through excess containers. Consequently, expensive material and equipment could not be stored adequately and was often exposed to the weather. (da Costa, Campos, & Bandeira, 2012)

Logisticians involved in the humanitarian operation after the Tohoku earthquake in Japan estimated that between 50% and 70% of the arriving cargo were not needed at all. On an average, 30% of the staff was occupied with sorting out unnecessary supplies (Holguín-Veras et-al., 2014). Similar to Haiti, a news report caused the oversupply of one good. In the case of Japan, blankets were needed due to the cold weather and donors rushed to send them to Tohoku. As a consequence, the volume of this donated item was much larger than the actual need for it. Furthermore, when the weather warmed up, donors continued to send blankets to the crisis region, even though they were not needed anymore. At the end, more than 50% of the donated blankets were not used at all. (Holguín-Veras, Jaller, Van Wassenhove, Pérez, & Wachtendorf, 2012)


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Humanitarian Logistics. The development of humanitarian logistics in disaster relief operations after the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004
University of Applied Sciences Graz
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The development of humanitarian logistics, coordination in disaster relief operations, cooperation among aid agencies, South-East Asia 2004, Haiti 2010, Japan 2011
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Stefan Lehrer (Author), 2015, Humanitarian Logistics. The development of humanitarian logistics in disaster relief operations after the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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