World Food Programme – A Logistical Challenge

Commentators have long been discussing the challenges faced enabling food assistance to be effectively delivered and much has been written on the subject.

In her article for the CILT’s December 2013 FOCUS magazine, Magda Jurkowiecka stated that the existing WFP supply options fall into two different channels:

  • Direct supply – handled by WFP and consisting of several streams, such as in-kind contribution, international procurement or local procurement.
  • Indirect supply – new stream wholly outsourced from the commercial retail market by providing beneficiaries with vouchers or cash to improve matching of supply with their acceptance so as to minimize the amount of food ending up on the open market, be it for secondary human consumption or animal food

She believes that the recommended approach is to treat all streams, direct and indirect, as one integrated system managed together. There is a need for dynamic management of all supply streams that complement each other and provide room for generation of optimization in efficiency, agility and costs.

There is no doubt that in large-scale operations, distribution of food assistance through commercial retail supply chains requires logistics supply management to:

  • Extend the time for market adaptation through back-up with in-kind supply
  • Accelerate the launch of response by establishing temporary shop structures in locations where such do not exist
  • Allow cost optimization by shifting from one stream to another, depending on cost benefit by commodity

Magda states that hybrid supply entails operating parallel supply chains simultaneously and/or a combination of supply of different commodities to the same location and recipient group and the managed transition from one to another.

Logistics Implications:

Assuring availability of goods covered by vouchers schemes needs:

  • Market monitoring at wholesale and retail levels
  • Retail-based supply operational planning, covering shop sizing, structural support, supply planning and cost analysis
  • Retailer selection and control of performance
  • Control of distribution outlets

Assuring availability at distribution points for in-kind assistance requires:

  • Joint planning of supply
  • Dynamic management of food reserves
  • Ports discharge supervision and organized inland transport
  • Supplier management covering physical warehousing and virtual warehousing (suppliers and strategic grain reserves)

Wider Humanitarian Logistics:

Since 2000, there has been an annual average of 384 disasters affecting some 230 million people, according to the Centre for Research into the Epidemiology of Disasters.
Many of those affected have been by the rapid onset disasters, the timing of which, but arguably not so much the probable location, is often difficult to foresee.

Overall international humanitarian financing amounted to $17.1 billion in 2011.
It is generally accepted that between 40 and 80% of the cost of responding to disasters is logistics cost. We are therefore talking about a large logistics and supply chain business.

As in so many other contexts, there is a significant move away from tonnage-based logistics to knowledge-based logistics, with a clear focus on building national capacity in disaster-prone regions, so that when disaster strikes where it is most likely to occur, the logistics response can be as efficient and effective as is possible.

So, the strategic positioning of inventories, taking account of shelf-life and other product issues, so as to be able to react with short-term priority products, followed by a planned sequence of staged support produce, be that food or other items, is critical. Solid logistics principles around planning such facilities and their positioning can add real value. Similarly, operational deployment, including rehearsal and contingency planning, as used in non-disaster conditions, can make or break the effectiveness of such plans when called upon and hence save or lose lives.

In summary, the fundamentals of good and continuously improving supply chain management are as much, if not more important in Humanitarian Logistics as they are in Commercial Logistics environments and the latest techniques and technologies should be integral to helping those unfortunate enough to be caught up in natural and human disasters.

The Logistics Business:

With a wide range of projects, expertise and experience gained across all business sectors, The Logistics Business, a supply chain specialist consultancy, can offer huge value in the Humanitarian Logistics field and together with its partners are keen to explore further how such engagement is best achieved.