What role do procurement and supply teams play in acquiring and delivering humanitarian aid, for personal, societal, and economic support?
“Most NGOs have their own procurement and logistics teams. Within those teams there will be key managers and employees that manage crisis management and/orlong term support. Those are really the key considerations. From my experience NGOs should lead the charge on humanitarian aid but should continue to reach out to commercial organizations for help with really targeted requests, for instance some services can be outsourced like warehousing.
So how does it work?
There will be two teams – crisis management and long term support.
The crisis management team will manage crisis logistics, allowing first for help to be collected, to arrive on time and also support the emergency aid – mainly focusing on collecting and distribution Ie. transporting as quickly as possible to reach the population facing the crisis.
The key to all of this is being prepared for any sort of crisis (for example a war or an earthquake) –people do not know which kind of crisis but that there will be a crisis and they need to be prepared.
In my experience there were 4 main topics to take in account:
- Management of stocks of emergency goods
- Ability to mobilize their own logistics equipment and resources
- Ability to mobilize extraordinary resources if needed (army logistics for example..)
- Ability to coordinate external resources that can be offered by commercial companies for example – specific bulldozers were donated and sent to help with the aftermath of an earthquake, by one company I have worked with previously
Long term support is different and can be better organized and planned. Sometimes it is outsourced and may not be managed by the same NGO. I feel it is unlikely that many commercial and non-government funded organisations would work across long term support, unless working with NGOs on the ground.
The challenge is to take into account, as much as possible, the local resources and suppliers to avoid destroying the local economy. The role of the SC and the procurement team is to understand what can be sourced and managed locally and what must be brought from outside. The goal is having a responsible approach and developing local networks. The ultimate purpose is that even the long-term support has an end. Either the crisis comes to an end or the local people are given the tools and education to enable some level of autonomy and their own control.
How do you keep costs down?
Preparation is key. In my experience, Itwas more the general relationships of the NGO with the government and the embassy thatwas important to get help. For example to manage the army logistics. Connections with the local community and infrastructure is key. Cost, although a consideration for long term support is not such a consideration for crisis management.
How do you get the balance between ensuring immediate and long-term help programs?
It is very difficult to get the same focus on the long term as the immediate, so the procurement and logistics teams should also look for collaboration with external companies for regular donations(for example – spare parts at low prices for their own fleet, donation of power groups…) In addition, the team should develop the local collaboration and employ the local manpower. This will help reduce theft and corruption as the local community will be on side. It is important that the team never underestimates the difficulties linked to the environment that can be truly hostile.
For commercial companies wishing to get more involved in this sector it will be important that they get advice and partner with NGOs with teams on the ground. For example in one of the programmes I was involvedwith sophisticated water pumps were sent out to help get clean water to a community, but there was no one local there with any knowledge on how to fix them when things went wrong. If the company had partnered with an NGO with local knowledge, contacts etc this could have been avoided.