20 January 2005 | Cara Whitehouse
The foresight of charities' purchasing and logistics teams "undoubtedly saved lives" following Asia's catastrophic tsunami.
John McCann, Save the Children's global logistics manager, told SM that supply and freight deals agreed last June had given the charity instant access to essential survival items and the means to fly them immediately to disaster zones.
"The global contracts were invaluable in the first phase of the emergency relief effort, ensuring speed and quality of supply," he said. "They made our lives, the suppliers' lives and hopefully those of the beneficiaries in Asia much easier. They undoubtedly saved lives."
Under Save the Children's emergency planning regime, suppliers guaranteed stocks of vehicles, communications equipment, medical kits, therapeutic feeding equipment and non-food items.
The charity has sent charter aircraft to the disaster-stricken region, carrying 30,000 tarpaulins and over 300 tents for shelter and storage. Generators, blankets, clothing and mosquito nets were also shipped out. In addition, a fleet of 10 aid distribution trucks has arrived in the region.
"It worked effectively and meant Save the Children coped well with its response to the disaster, which has been more complicated than anything we have dealt with in the past," said McCann.
Aeroplanes supplied by air-charter firm Chapman Freeborn included the world's largest transporter, an Antonov 124, which took trucks, and a DC8 that took 39 tonnes of supplies.
John Jung, distribution centre manager for the global pre-positioning resource network at World Vision, said the relief and development charity had also been able to meet demands for emergency supplies through established framework agreements and stocked warehouses around the world.
"We were able to cut our response time considerably and this will have saved lives," he said.
Among the aid sent by the British Red Cross were two fully equipped UK logistics teams, each with a forklift truck, communications and IT capability, as well as personal survival kits.
John Farebrother, a logistician at the British Red Cross, said that although it had enough items in stock for more than one team, it was the first time two had been deployed together.
According to Philip Hoare, procurement manager at the Sight Savers charity and current co-ordinator for the sector's Inter Agency Procurement Group, most emergency relief charities would have been well prepared to send aid.
"To be able to respond, big agencies must have equipment ready and contracts in place.
"It is unlikely anyone was left scrabbling for supplies."
News focus: Supply lessons of tsunami aid