Roles of NGOs and Military in Humanitarian Supply Chain: Collaborative Solutions

Roles of NGOs and Military in Humanitarian Supply Chain: Collaborative Solutions

Ik-Whan G. Kwon (Saint Louis University, St. Louis, USA) and Sung-Ho Kim (Yonsei University, Seoul, Republic of Korea)
DOI: 10.4018/IJDREM.2018040103

Abstract

Between the years 2000 and 2012, natural disasters caused $1.7 trillion in damage and affected 2.9 billion people (dosomething.org). The military has been active in participating in many disaster areas using their unique assets. Although military involvement in relief operations is welcome, their participation has been perceived by some part of NGOs as suspicious and incongruent with relief missions practiced by NGOs. This article attempts to outline a framework with two relief organizations working together to provide comprehensive relief strategies.
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Introduction

Data collected from EM-DAT (2012), the international disaster database, suggests an alarming upward trend of the number of natural disasters occurring worldwide over the last fifty years. From 1965-1975 there were approximately 71 occurrences of natural disasters per year worldwide. However, if we take that same ten-year span from 1995-2005, an average of approximately 403 natural disasters per year was recorded. That is a little more than five and a half times what it was only twenty years earlier. Eleven percent (11%) of the people being exposed to natural disasters live in developing countries, but the disasters occurring in developing countries account for 53% of the recorded deaths (Kovacs & Spens, 2011). The rate of natural disasters is increasing at an incredible rate as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Occurrence of natural disasters

IJDREM.2018040103.f01

If damages caused by political conflicts (war, terrorist attacks, etc.) are considered, the economic and human suffering would exceed far more than the information provided above. As a matter of fact, the Foreign Policy Forum (2017) warns 10 most vulnerable countries in 2017 where human catastrophe may occur.

Although humanitarian crises happen every year around the globe, it is not an easy task to predict the exact locations, time and magnitude/scale of such disasters, which makes long range relief planning and corresponding responses difficult and inefficient if not impossible. Such unpredictability coupled with donors’ unwillingness to invest in the preparatory stage of humanitarian supply chain makes its operations less effective and costs more than it needs to be (Heaslip, 2012). It has been argued that donors usually are less interested in investing in long term infrastructures that would either prevent unnecessary duplicative efforts or minimize human suffering. They are more willing to donate goods and money in response to urgent pleas by international relief agencies that attract maximum exposure to the donor’s charitable intention. Once such urgency subsidies, donors in many incidences withdraw their pledge and, in some cases,, not willing to fulfill their original pledge. One NGO agency reports that in 2015 only 55% of pledges were collected ($10.9 billion out of $19.8 billion pledged) (ICVA, 2017). In the refuge crises in Darfur, Western Sudan and after hurricane Mitch, for example, aid agencies received only a third of promised funds (Oloruntoba, 2005). Of pledged amounts, in many instances, the amount is too small and/or wrong kinds of materials that it is practically useless in reducing human misery (DMTP, 1993). In some instances, estimation of actual needs is way off from the original estimation. For example, individuals estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance rose from projected 82 million people in 2013 to 101 million in 2014, and in some cases, the estimated fund met only 10% of the needs (Haavisto, Kovacs, & Spens, 2016). Finally, many materials donated are misplaced due to an absence of well-thought out planning or lack of logistics personnel who could direct materials to places where needs are most urgent. One expert pleads that “we do not need a donor’s conferences, rather we need a logistician conference” (Shane & Bonner, 2005).

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