Humanitarian relief operations can be improved dramatically and save more lives if aid agencies have access to web-based technology, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which has been working for the past year on the development of a humanitarian logistics software package with the San Francisco-based Fritz Institute.
In-depth analysis of some of the largest relief operations undertaken by the International Federation indicates that the speed of the relief process can be increased 20% to 30% using the Humanitarian Logistics Software, which goes "live" this week at the International Federation's Geneva-secretariat and will gradually become standard for Red Cross/ Red Crescent operations around the world.
Fritz Institute, founded by Lynn Fritz who made his mark as a pioneer in the world of commercial logistics, has invested over a million dollars and 3,000 man-hours in an assessment of the International Federation's technology requirements.
"Aid donations are typically targeted for direct relief and have not enabled humanitarian organizations to adapt 21st century technology and commercial logistics practices to take the paper out of relief and to ensure that staff have timely information about the availability and whereabouts of relief supplies. This is where we feel our expertise can make a difference," said Lynn Fritz, Director General of Fritz Institute.
"There is no doubt that our resources are being stretched to the limit as we see the numbers of people affected by disasters worldwide increasing dramatically year after year. This technology will ease the burden of tracking and delivering emergency supplies and free us to focus more resources on saving lives and providing direct assistance to those most in need," said Abbas Gullet, director of disaster management at the International Federation.
The strains on humanitarian organizations responding to emergencies were underlined in this year's World Disasters Report, published by the International Federation. It showed that last year alone, 256 million people were reported affected by disasters, well above the decade's annual average of 210 million.
Humanitarian Logistics Software has been designed based on the needs of humanitarian relief organizations operating during the emergency phase of a disaster. It is customized for the mobilization and reporting needs of the disaster theatre. The technology allows up-to-the-minute tracking of food, non-food, gifts-in-kind and financial information about the commodities in the supply chain. It also allows for the speedy reconciliation of needs versus what has been pledged or purchased and does it at a demand level per project per item.
"This is but one example of the synergy that I would like to see developing much more between the expertise and resources available from the private sector and the needs of aid agencies responding to humanitarian emergencies. We need to encourage more partnerships such as the one that has developed between our Institute and the International Federation," said Lynn Fritz, who is co-founder of the Disaster Resource Network established by the World Economic Forum to channel support in disasters, particularly from the engineering, construction and logistics industries.
The technology will also be made available to other aid agencies. Other benefits expected to flow from the Humanitarian Logistics Software include stretching relief dollars, strengthening institutional memory in an area known for high staff turnover and improved transparency and better reporting to donors.
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