By Melis Jones and Margaret Gardener
Imagine a scenario where it’s hard, if not
impossible to create an accurate forecast, your sources
of supply can
vary, and no one really seems to be in charge of coordinating
the supply chain. This pretty much sums up the disaster relief
In a way, it’s quite remarkable that this supply chain
actually works – thanks to the compassion and ingenuity
of the human spirit. When the Asian tsunami disaster struck,
the details of the disaster were brought directly into the
homes of millions of potential donors – many of them
who responded from across the world.
The Secondary Disaster
But in the days following a disaster, often times a secondary
disaster is created as well-intentioned people and organizations
donate what they think is needed versus what is actually
required. Aid workers must sort through masses of donated
items rather than assisting victims. Logistics lines become
clogged with noncritical items. The material has to be
stored, and sometimes eventually destroyed.
Just days after the tsunami hit, the New York Times reported
that emergency provisions were piling up in warehouses and
on tarmacs around the Indian Ocean. “All too often,
a surplus of good intentions leads to relief agencies tripping
over one another in what Raymond D. Offenheiser, president
of Oxfam America, has called ‘the anarchy of altruism’ that
produces waste, duplication and frustration.”
The Inventory Problem
But the current tsunami disaster is not the first to see
such waste of donations. During the Bosnian war, at least
half of the roughly 30,000 tons of donated
medicines and health supplies donated were of little
or no value. The
cost of destroying donated items was estimated to be
of $30M, reported the New England Journal of Medicine.
In the wake of Hurricane Andrew in 1996, 5 acres of donated
clothing was burned or incinerated when it was not needed,
according to the CIDI (Center for International Disaster
The Coordination Problem
The problem in delivering humanitarian aid during disaster
situations stems from there being no easy way for relief
agencies to accurately communicate needs of victims to
donors who are willing to help. But by applying supply
chain management technology used to help corporations
match supply of goods to demand of customers in the for profit
world to the problems facing humanitarian aid delivery,
a non-profit out of Dallas Texas, Aidmatrix, has been
to create a solution that can reduce the waste and increase
the efficiency in delivering aid to disaster victims.
Other companies, including Accenture, Sun, Oracle, Dell and
also support this concept and have made donations of
technology and volunteers to make the Aidmatrix Disaster
“Aidmatrix is about getting the right aid, to the
right people, at the right time.”
– Lekha Singh,
CEO of Aidmatrix.
Sri Lankan Red Cross members unload relief supplies
a U.S. Blackhawk helicopter in Galle
Aidmatrix: Leveraging Supply Chain Technology
In a disaster situation, relief agencies with workers on
the ground can use Aidmatrix technology to post specific
needs to an online site. The list can change as the situation
unfolds. In turn, individuals and corporations can access
this needs list and select items they wish to donate.
The system tracks every transaction on a real-time basis,
updated inventory management, and can produce reports
for documentation and assessment of the situation.
When donated items are not appropriate, Aidmatrix allows
for monetary donations, in the form of online Virtual Aid
Drives. A Virtual Aid Drive allows individuals to donate
money toward the purchase of the most needed items whether
they be food, medicines, building supplies, etc. and also
gives donors visibility to what types of items are needed
throughout the lifecycle of the disaster – from emergency
aid items to clean up, and through to the necessary activities
to rebuilding infrastructures that restore the affected communities
to independence and self-sustainability.
Virtual Drives work well in corporate environments as a
workplace giving tool. Accenture raised over $78,000 nationally
in the two days of their Tsunami Aid Drive, with a minimal
amount of resources required to launch the program and a
maximum benefit to the victims they are trying to help.
Pakistani porters load relief supplies prepared by their
government into a plane at Chaklala Air base in Rawalpindi
to be sent to the Maldives.
While the potential of Aidmatrix to help in disaster relief
is clear, the same principles also apply to other areas
of humanitarian aid delivery. With additional solutions
available for hunger relief, general humanitarian aid,
donation management, and medical and health relief, Aidmatrix
has been able to have an impact on the lives of over 37
million people in need – both in times of disaster
and in every day life, delivering over 600 million pounds
of relief items since July of 2001. Currently, more than
1000 organizations are benefiting from Aidmatrix solutions.
Of course, the true heroes of any disaster situation, and
particularly the Asian tsunami situation, are the relief
agencies and their workers who reach out directly to the
victim’s everyday. Hopefully, as donors are able to
understand more of the challenges these workers face, and
as technology helps them to do their work as efficiently
and effectively as possible, the victims of these tragedies
will find help to survive and regain their quality of life
faster than ever before.
To learn more about Aidmatrix, please contact Margaret Gardner
(Margaret_gardner@aidmatrix.org), or by phone, 469/357-8569,
or visit the Aidmatrix website www.aidmatrix.org.
Indonesian Navy landing craft and a U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopter
deliver relief supplies and evacuate Indonesian citizens
in Tjalang, Sumatra, Indonesia - January 9, 2005
©2005 ChainLink Research, Inc.