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The vital role of logistics during humanitarian crises

supplies loading to a UPS plane

The magnitude of humanitarian emergencies during the last decade has challenged the traditional mode of disaster response around the world. When a weather-related event causes an emergency, supply chains are most likely broken, putting those in need in the most vulnerable position.

With climate-related humanitarian crises on the rise and the warnings of irreversible climate-change effects on the world, solutions at scale involving public-private partnerships are vital.

The supply chain accounts for approximately 73 percent of humanitarian response spending, and with the price for climate-related humanitarian response estimated to reach $20 billion annually by 2030, public-private partnerships such as the Logistics Emergency Teams (LET) become critical in the face of humanitarian disaster relief and preparedness.

The Logistics Emergency Teams at a glance

The Logistics Emergency Teams (LET), comprised of UPS, Agility, DP World and A.P. Moller-Maersk, combine the capacity and resources of the logistics industry with the expertise of the humanitarian community. Together, they deploy their resources upon request from the Logistics Cluster, led by the United Nations World Food Programme.

In the first public-private partnership of its kind, these four global companies offer their combined logistics expertise, knowledge of national and regional infrastructure and systems and invest their resources in conducting supply chain preparedness by enhancing coordination, collaboration and knowledge sharing among public and private sectors.

Together with the Logistics Cluster, the LET partnership offers relief to emergencies impacting tens of millions of people around the world such as earthquakes in Indonesia, typhoons in the Philippines, cyclones in East Africa and crises like Ebola in West Africa and famine in the Horn of Africa.

The LET partnership launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2005, with the Forum serving as a neutral platform through which to engage with the humanitarian community. Since its inception 14 years ago, the LET has provided humanitarian assistance to 22 major natural disasters and crises around the world.

In 2019, although there were no official activations from the Logistics Cluster, the LET companies supported humanitarian emergency operations after Cyclones Idai and Kenneth in Eastern Africa, and most recently, in the wake of hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas.

“When a weather-related event causes an emergency, supply chains are most likely broken, putting those in need in the most vulnerable position.”

People make the difference

The LET is only activated when large-scale and sudden onset disasters strike or when complex emergencies escalate.

It provides the Logistics Cluster with access to a global network of transportation and logistics assets such as warehousing space, offices, airlifts, shipping and trucking services and expertise. In addition to this support, the LET supports Logistics Cluster national disaster preparedness activities mainly by gathering and sharing information about transportation and logistics infrastructure.

Occasionally, the LET deploys its highly trained logistics experts to join the Logistics Cluster staff for disaster response operations.

By far, the biggest resource deployed by the LET companies is their people. The LET maintains a roster of employees trained in emergency logistics protocols and ready for deployment in the case of a humanitarian emergency at the invitation of the Logistics Cluster.

These employees are highly trained in response simulation exercises, health, safety, field security, communications and team building, bringing important support during a time of emergency.

“In a global humanitarian scenario at the mercy of natural disasters and other climate change crises, the role of preparedness is now more crucial than ever.”

A constant evolution

Aside from the delivery of its expertise and resources in the event of emergency responses, the LET partnership works to strengthen national systems and support long-term, locally driven preparedness initiatives.

In the past few years, the LET partnership has placed a significant amount of resources in conducting supply chain preparedness in disaster-prone countries by focusing on enhancing coordination, collaboration and knowledge sharing among local public and private actors and the humanitarian sector.

In a global humanitarian scenario at the mercy of natural disasters and other climate change crises, the role of preparedness is now more crucial than ever.

With this scenario in mind, the LET partnership has worked to strengthen preparedness activities to overcome future challenges that may arise in face of an emergency and thus reduce time, money and complexity in humanitarian responses — all of which will ultimately lead to a more effective disaster relief operation.

As we move forward, we’re all looking to prevent supply chain disruptions from happening in the first place, so the most vital goods can be received by those in need. This is where we see our partnership moving forward in the future.

“One public or private entity cannot do this alone. It is only with the combined efforts of strategic public-private partnerships that we can address the growing number of humanitarian emergencies around the world.”

What’s most important

The LET companies do not take their participation in this public-private partnership lightly. After all, most of the LET companies operate in the regions and countries where these disasters occur, and by working together, we can bring resources to make a real difference.

One public or private entity cannot do this alone. It is only with the combined efforts of strategic public-private partnerships like the LET that we can address the growing number of humanitarian emergencies around the world.

The LET welcomes new members who are committed to this mission and who have the desire to foster public-private partnerships that enhance preparedness, response and recovery in a time of need.

Republished with permission, this article first appeared on World Economic Forum.

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