Disaster response requires better supply chain management

29 March 2011

29 March 2011 | Angeline Albert

A lack of joined-up thinking between the Department for International Development (DfID) and its partners is hindering the UK government’s humanitarian response to international disasters.

The Humanitarian Emergency Response Review (HERR), chaired by Lord Paddy Ashdown, said DfID could improve its response to humanitarian crises with better supply chain management.

Published yesterday, the document, which details the results of the independent review, said: “If DfID wants to improve its ability to respond at the right time for the right price and with the appropriate quality, supply chain management needs to be recognised as an integral part of preparedness and response.”

It said DfID’s budgets show that the cost of goods bought by non-governmental agencies and other delivery partners can differ significantly, and not always for justifiable reasons. “Evaluations of NGO responses have shown that mistakes are routinely made along the supply chain,” the report said.

Information received from DfID’s implementing partners give only a rough indication of what items cost, and the report said that crisis-hit populations often suffer from the poor quality of non-food items. For example, 70 per cent of the millions of sheets provided to Haiti after the earthquake needed replacing after nine months.

It recommended that DfID build up a system to record how much items that are needed following disasters cost in different countries, and how well those particular goods performed. It said this would aid effective unit cost analysis and rapid decision-making, which can be shared with other donors. It also recommended that a study be conducted to look at how DfID’s funding impacts on the disaster relief supply chain.

International development secretary Andrew Mitchell, who commissioned the report, said: “The UK Emergency Response System is rightly regarded as the best in the world, but there is no room for complacency, with the scale and intensity of disasters set to rise. I will use these findings to identify crucial reforms that will ensure Britain keeps its place at the forefront of disaster response for years to come.”

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