Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Real-Time Information and Managing Infrastructure in Humanitarian Logistics Operation: An Exploratory Study

Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Real-Time Information and Managing Infrastructure in Humanitarian Logistics Operation: An Exploratory Study

Article excerpt


The purpose of this paper is to provide a view pertaining to humanitarian logistics operation from two Malaysian organizations. It focuses on two perspectives: real-time information and managing infrastructure. It deals with the exploratory approach using open-ended questionnaires. The findings show that views from the respondents vary. It is considered to have made a significant contribution to the literature, by using the Malaysian organizations which relate to humanitarian logistics operation.

Key words: Humanitarian logistics; Real-time information; Managing infrastructure; Open-ended questionnaire


In Malaysia, the attention pertaining to disaster response was raised after the Asian Tsunami in 2004. It alerted a better humanitarian aid operation. This is because logistics operation is the key success factor in a complex humanitarian supply chain (Christopher, 2011). Tomasini and Wassenhove (2009) described humanitarian logistics as activities that concerned with human welfare during and after a disaster. Governments or organizations deploy humanitarian aid to those who are affected by a disaster such as Asian Tsunami. These organizations are unable to deploy any humanitarian aids to the affected areas if they do not have real-time information and availability of infrastructures. Efficiency and effectiveness of humanitarian logistics to the disaster area are vital since it requires a large-scale provision of aid.

Logistics functions in the humanitarian logistics must be able to support Governments or organizations to perform response operations in order to coordinate performance, eliminate redundancies and maximize usage of resources (Pan American Health Organization, 2001). Furthermore, humanitarian logistics needs to learn from modem logistics supply chain as they have to deal with unexpected turbulence and uncertainty (Christopher, 2011).

Globally, humanitarian logistics organizations have been focused as an important function by the United Nation. For example, the World Food Programme (WFP) established its first United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) in Brindisi, Italy on 1st June 2000. The UNHRD has facilities to store cold and dry food, provide logistics support and services to United Nations (UN) and other humanitarian agencies. It can serve the disaster areas within 48 hours within the service region. In Malaysia, the UNHRD operation is in Subang, Selangor and it is supported by the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) to ensure speedy distribution to affected regions.

In Malaysia, a study about humanitarian logistics is not been widely explored. Pettit and Beresford (2009) literature only explained the critical success factors in the context of general humanitarian aid supply chains. In addition to that, very few literature reviews have emphasized the nature of humanitarian logistics in Malaysia (examples see Pettit & Beresford, 2009; Schulz & Blecken, 2010). In order to gain more knowledge about humanitarian logistics in Malaysia, an exploratory study was conducted with two organizations that practise humanitarian logistics operations. The scope of the study focuses on two issues. Firstly real-time information and then managing infrastructure in association with humanitarian logistics operations. A qualitative method was applied in this study. Data was gained through face-to-face interviews. Below are the research questions and the research objectives:

Research Questions

* To what extent lack of real-time information affect efficiency in humanitarian operations?

* In what way humanitarian organizations manage infrastructure from depots to disaster area in humanitarian operations?

Research Objectives

* To determine the importance of real-time information in humanitarian operations.

* To explore the nature of managing the infrastructure from depots to disaster areas.


Gaps are revealed in humanitarian logistics practice, research, education, as well as between these. …

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