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close this bookHandbook for Emergencies - Second Edition (UNHCR, 1999, 414 p.)
close this folder18. Supplies and Transport
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentOverview
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentOrganization of the Supply Chain
View the documentSupplies
View the documentTransport
View the documentReception of Goods
View the documentStorage
View the documentStock Management
View the documentKey References
View the documentAnnexes

Organization of the Supply Chain

· A single coordinated operation is essential and duplication of supply chain services must be avoided;

· This requires a clear understanding of overall needs and the responsibilities for meeting them;

· Three key qualities of a good supply chain are: rapidity, flexibility and security.


4. A clear understanding of the overall needs by all concerned is essential. Needs assessment and planning should be carried out together with government, WFP and NGO partners.

5. An easily understood and comprehensive list of requirements is essential as the starting point for meeting the basic material needs.

Without it, great confusion can result. With such a starting point, the balance of needs, requirements and distribution can be continuously monitored, and the effect of these relief goods or services will be immediately apparent.


6. Three key qualities of a good supply chain are: rapidity, flexibility and security. These three qualities depend on good coordination and communications as well as good planning. When planning for and developing the supply chain, ensure:

i. Rapidity: Response time is critically important in emergencies, and advance planning is essential to optimize resources, and not waste time correcting avoidable mistakes or inefficiencies. Planning must take into account lead times;

ii. Flexibility: Logistics is dictated by the circumstances of the operation and terrain, and must be able to quickly adapt to rapid changes in circumstances. Plan for the worst case scenario, and build in the required flexibility and adaptability;

iii. Security: The security of personnel and relief goods must be a priority in the logistics plan. Security risks vary from theft and looting to war;

iv. Coordination: Coordinate planning and implementation with other agencies, in particular WFP who often have good local transport and logistical capacity. WFP is normally responsible for food supplies up to the agreed Extended Delivery Point -see chapter on food and nutrition.

Avoid duplication of logistical services by different organizations and ensure a single, coordinated operation.

A single coordinating body of all the relevant agencies may be required to implement certain aspects of the supply chain such as transportation and storage (a "UN Joint Logistics Cell") - guidance on setting this up is given in MCDU's UN Joint Logistics Cell: Standard Operating Procedures. Ensure effective coordination by: advising team members and staff from other organizations of minimal lead times, respecting deadlines and delivering the expected supplies at the time and place agreed and keeping to agreed loading and transport schedules;

v. Comprehensive planning: Have an overview of the whole operation when planning for and managing services, materials, staff and time;

vi. Spare capacity: The logistics plan must provide spare capacity, taking into account factors which would cause delays (such as vehicle breakdowns);

vii. Cost-effectiveness: Ensure proper maintenance of warehouses, efficient stock control, and well negotiated contracts (e.g. for transport, warehouses, customs clearance, and maintenance). Ensure purchases are made from competitive sources in accordance with UNHCR regulations - although initial purchases may be made with speed as a foremost concern, plan follow on supplies in good time to be able to purchase from competitive sources;

viii. Good communication: A regular exchange of information between the offices involved in the supply chain is essential. Headquarters should give the Field as much notice as possible of procurement and shipment of goods or services, estimated times of arrival (ETA), changes in delivery schedules, and of contributions in kind. The field should advise Headquarters of any changes to importation laws, acknowledge receipt and distribution of consignments, and advise Headquarters of contributions in kind.


There must be good communications facilities at dispatch and arrival points as well as mobile communications sets on surface transport.

ix. Clear responsibility:

Whatever the arrangements in the field, the, line of responsibility and reporting to UNHCR by the operational partners must be dear.

The major decisions about supply chain issues should be taken by the same person with the appropriate responsibility and authority;

Local and Other Resources

7. The supply chain should use local resources and knowledge to the extent possible. Where there is a good existing warehousing and distribution system, outside assistance may not be necessary. Where outside assistance is required, sources include:

i. Supply and Transport Section at Headquarters (which handles procurement, logistics, fleet management, and contracting);

ii. Government disaster agencies or emergency corps, and Government Service Packages from donor governments (see chapter on implementing arrangements);

iii. An NGO or commercial firm with appropriate experience.

Setting up the Supply Chain

8. The circumstances of each emergency will determine what type of supply chain support is required - whether it is directly implemented by UNHCR, through an operational partner or as a commercial contract.

9. Steps to establish the supply chain include the following:

i. Make arrangements for the duty-free import/export of relief goods, and duty free and tax free purchase of relief goods with the appropriate governmental authorities. To avoid delays, this must be done before the goods are due to arrive;

ii. Investigate the possibility of using local suppliers;

iii. Select warehouses appropriate for their purpose (for storing food or non-food items; for transhipment, storage or distribution). Ensure that access roads and doors allow easy loading and offloading;

iv. Select appropriate transport for goods and/or passengers: determine the type and the number of light and heavy vehicles, vessels, aircraft and trains needed. Calculate fuel and maintenance requirements (tyres, lubricants, parts and mechanics);

v. Use temporary assistance during peak demand for staff;

vi. Provide the necessary staff support equipment such as office equipment and supplies, light and water, vehicles, freight handling items, power, communications, and accommodation;

vii. Put in place a documentation and filing system, and use standard forms to report on the status of relief goods. Advise and train personnel on procedures.