Behind all frontline emergency response lies a major logistics exercise, and it is almost inherently true that crisis situations require the rapid delivery of personnel, supplies and services to difficult-to-reach locations. Logistics includes a broad range of activities, from management of the humanitarian operational environment (security, communications systems) to the land, sea and air transport/storage/distribution of program supplies and staff. Logistics also plays an important role in preparedness and is fast-evolving in terms of its capacities and technologies. Given the large expenses involved, the choice of supplies, suppliers and methods has a substantial impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of humanitarian interventions.

Line of trucks carrying humanitarian supplies

Photo: UE/ECHO/Pascal Mounier

Key actors

Global platform and coordination mechanism, led by the World Food Program (WFP), providing support to operational decision-making and improving the predictability, timeliness and efficiency of logistics in the humanitarian emergency response

Leads the Global Logistics Cluster due to its expertise in humanitarian logistics and its field capacity in food assistance delivery in emergencies

Partnership between the World Food Programme (WFP) and some of the largest global logistics and transportation companies, developed to improve the humanitarian response to emergencies

Interagency association of international organizations and corporate partners providing advice on better, cleaner, safer, and more effective transport

Individual-based association for humanitarian logistics professionals aimed at setting standards, providing training, and encouraging collaboration between humanitarian logisticians

Key references

Paper outlining the current challenges of the humanitarian supply chain and recommendations towards overcoming them, based on humanitarian response case studies

Lessons Learned Exercises assessing the performance of the Logistics Cluster in various field operations

Tools for the job

Dynamic mapping and analysis platform that can be used to simulate and plan a supply chain response, as well as to adapt and rollout that plan when a disaster hits

Crosscutting themes


Practical guide on supply chain management with an emphasis on health commodities for program managers who design, manage, and assess logistics systems

Key actors

Network engaged in the study of humanitarian crises, providing a platform to stimulate dialogue between academia, policy actors, and implementing agencies.

Network of European universities and global partner institutions promoting professionalism in humanitarian action and offering a joint Masters Degree in International Humanitarian Action.

Academic platform for humanitarian action, bringing together practitioners and academics on major contemporary humanitarian challenges and issues and offering training

Academic research center at Harvard aiming to develop evidence-based approaches to humanitarian assistance

Institute with inter-disciplinary curriculum that combines humanitarian academic theory with practice

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