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How humanitarian logistics partners have stepped up delivery amid multiple crises

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A warehouse with white boxes of humanitarian relief goods on the shelves: The Logistics Emergency Team enhances aid delivery in humanitarian crisis.

The Logistics Emergency Team enhances aid delivery in humanitarian crisis. Image: Unsplash/Arno Senona

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  • Amid increasing conflict and disasters, humanitarian logistics face challenges adapting to evolving humanitarian needs, requiring a careful approach to aid and logistical coordination.
  • The Logistics Emergency Team (LET) – a World Economic Forum-initiated partnership of four of the world’s largest transport companies – plays a unique role in the humanitarian ecosystem to enhance aid delivery to people impacted by war and disasters.
  • Agility, AP Moller-Maersk, DP World and UPS have supported the United Nations’ Global Logistics Cluster through targeted pro bono support including improved transportation to deliver humanitarian supplies or by helping maximize cargo capacity.

Delivering lifesaving supplies amid conflict and crisis.

The world is contending with multiple crises – conflict in Ukraine has displaced over 6.3 million people. Meanwhile, Afghanistan is still contending with the aftermath of a devastating earthquake felt across five provinces, impacting thousands of people. There have also been recent floods in the Dominican Republic and protracted conflicts such as in Sudan. Indeed, the World Economic Forum Global Risks Report 2024 shows geoeconomic confrontation among the top 10 risks over the next 10 years.

The need for careful coordination in the humanitarian sector has never been greater particularly as individual NGOs can face various and differing constraints, from resources to access and at any one time there could be multiple players vying to supply medical supplies and food. That’s why the Global Logistics Cluster (GLC), a coordination body mandated by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), is crucial to effective aid delivery.

The Forum-initiated Logistics Emergency Team (LET) is a vital player within the GLC. This coalition of the largest global logistics companies (AP Moller-Maersk, UPS, DP World and Agility) has worked with multiple agencies and humanitarian organizations to provide targeted pro bono support to humanitarian operations.

Examples can be seen worldwide. For instance, in early 2023, after major earthquakes killed over 50,000 people in Turkiye and Syria, the LET offered the Cluster capacity access to local logistics experts to support operations, refrigerated containers for storageand transportation of WFP mobile storage units. UPS supported customs clearance, a local transportation market assessment and in-country transportation, while Agility provided funding for transportation and storage to humanitarian organizations. LET members also offered an airlift from the UN Humanitarian Response Depot in Brindisi, Italy, to Adana, Türkiye, as well as free air transport from Colone, Germany to Turkiye.

The LET-developed “Emergency Dashboard Utility for Airfreight Resource and Delivery Options”, better known as EDUARDO, appeared to be highly advantageous as it was accessed 510 times during the first month of the earthquake. EDUARDO is designed to speed up humanitarian relief. It enables humanitarians to determine available air cargo capacity on scheduled commercial flights. It is supported by Google flight data and during the earthquake response it aided humanitarian logisticians to understand what cargo capacity was available for their humanitarian operations.

And after Russian forces invaded Ukraine in 2022, which led to over half of those displaced fleeing to other European countries, the LET used its locations in Poland, Romania and Hungary to provide warehouse space and transportation for humanitarian aid. The LET companies used their local knowledge to help streamline and organize distribution to affected areas and established a rail link from Ukraine to Romania's DP World Constanta port, which eased pressure on truck drivers, enabling the expedited delivery of 2,500 containers with life-saving supplies. The LET also provided customs clearance information and assistance and facilitated the humanitarian supply chain along the Poland-Ukraine border.

And in the Gaza, UPS provided six Emergency Response Units through one shipment delivered by the Finland Red Cross, arriving in Cairo, Egypt. It was sent to support Egyptian Red Crescent efforts to create a supply chain hub in Ismailia, Egypt, focused on improved tracking, inventory control and accountability in the registration process of incoming humanitarian cargo.

These recent activations follow many other instances when the LET has provided support. For example in 2017 when catastrophic flooding displaced tens of thousands and killed many in Peru. The LET orchestrated the collection of 400 metric tonnes of life-saving supplies from donation consolidation sites and transported them to the port, overcoming impassable roads and logistical hurdles to deliver supplies quickly from Lima to the hardest-hit areas. As part of the LET, DP World facilitated container stuffing operations, utilizing their expertise to maximize cargo capacity and efficiency.

What’s the challenge?

Humanitarian logistics is collaborative among stakeholders from governments, NGOs, multilateral agencies and the private sector. It is critical to relief operations and getting aid to where it’s needed quickly, particularly as supply chain bottlenecks can easily transpire, as seen in the Ukraine war. It also comprises most of its core funding needs, with studies placing 73% of humanitarian expenditures as linked to supply chain activities.

Coordination is thus so important to ensure costs are reduced and resources are managed effectively. So, while private-sector companies’ input into humanitarian relief and logistics is welcome and needed, there is a challenge around coordinating their strengths and integrating them into the wider ecosystem. The tendency has been for companies to provide ad hoc support or donations which may not get utilized – approximately 80% of donations sit in a warehouse or go to waste, according to DP World’s whitepaper on humanitarian logistics.

One-off or in-kind support may seem like the right approach with one-time disaster responses, such as wildfires, but the nature of humanitarian responses is evolving and humanitarian logistics must respond more effectively to rapidly and simultaneously emerging crises. For instance, cost-sharing structures could provide ongoing relief for continuous, protracted humanitarian crises, including wars, famine and slow-onset climate change phenomena such as droughts and floods.

Therefore, the sector must explore coordinated relief efforts among private sector players as well as humanitarian stalwarts.

Have you read?

Our approach.

Responding to war requires innovative and bold collective action from organizations, governments and industries. As DP World’s whitepaper “Empowering Humanitarian Logistics Resilience” notes, forward planning, procurement, transportation, warehousing and distribution of resources are all necessary to alleviate human suffering during disasters, conflicts and emergencies.

A rescue team member takes part in a search and rescue operation after a deadly earthquake in Ouirgane, Morocco in September 2023. Image: REUTERS/HANNAH McKAYAR

First facilitated by the Forum in 2005, the LET unites the capacity and resources of the global logistics industry with the expertise and experience of the humanitarian community to provide more effective and efficient disaster relief. The companies also supply pro bono assets and services and deploy logistics experts to the GLC.

The companies know engagement is for the long haul, with many committing to critically important long-term partnerships. The supply chain and transport community support for building capacity, preparedness and resilience has proven central in facilitating an inclusive response.

How can you get involved?

Companies are invited to join the platform to share their expertise, participate in projects and help accelerate the development of more sustainable, inclusive and resilient transport and supply systems.

For more information, please contact us.

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Delivering lifesaving supplies to countries facing humanitarian crisis

January 10, 2023

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