Abstract for: Understanding Humanitarian Supply Chain Logistics with System Dynamics Modeling

We use system dynamics to explore the short-term humanitarian response to a natural disaster that prompts a rapid influx of relief supplies, aiming to understand the dynamics of systemic processes that apply to humanitarian supply chain logistics. The most important stock in our model was the Cumulative Food distributed to disaster victims. In all of our simulation runs, victims eventually got all the food they needed, but at varying speeds. However, the most problematic stock was the amount of Food in the Central Warehouse. In almost all the runs, that stock contained an excess of food, resulting in waste and inefficiency. This problem was worst when the agency panicked at the outset and doubled its estimate of needed food, and when, as is often true, the agency received too many in-kind donations of food. The most interesting finding was that “managing” donations led to the best overall performance--low waste and good relief for victims. We offer a number of policy recommendations, including the need to avoid early bias, to repair infrastructure as quickly as possible, to develop better methods for keeping track of inventories and supplies on the way, and to strike a balance between encouraging and dampening donations.