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close this bookHumanitarian Assistance in Disaster Situations:A Guide for Effective Aid (Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) / OrganizaciĆ³n Panamericana de la Salud (OPS), 1999, 20 p.)
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Open this folder and view contentsInternational Health Relief Assistance: Benefit or Burden?
View the documentPrinciples of Humanitarian Assistance
View the documentObtaining International Disaster Relief
View the documentAfter a Disaster Occurs, Do...
View the documentDiscourage Sending...
View the documentConsult Further About Donations of...
View the documentMyths and Realities of Natural Disasters
View the documentEffects of Natural Disasters on Health
View the documentAnnex 1: SUMA
View the documentAnnex 2: Pan American Health Organization. Disaster Contacts
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Annex 1: SUMA

A comprehensive humanitarian supplies system2

2. The SUMA software is copyrighted by PAHO, but is distributed free of charge in English, Spanish, and French. Copies of SUMA software and manuals are available on request from the Emergency Preparedness Program, PAHO/WHO, 525 23rd St., NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA; Fax (202) 775-4578; e-mail:, or from FUNDESUMA, Apdo. 869, Pavas 1200, Costa Rica, Fax: (506) 257-2139; e-mail: The software and manuals also can be downloaded from the SUMA web site ( where announcements, information on emergencies, and related material can be viewed. Information on SUMA training can be obtained from the above addresses or PAHO/WHO Representatives in countries of the Region of the Americas.



The flood of relief supplies that arrive in the aftermath of large-scale disasters often pose serious logistic and management problems for national authorities. To address these problems, the Pan American Health Organization, in conjunction with other international agencies and governments, initiated the Supply Management Project, known as SUMA, in 1992. The main objective of this project is to strengthen national capacity to effectively manage humanitarian assistance supplies.

To this end, thousands of officers in all countries in the Americas and in other regions have received or are receiving training.

The main tasks of SUMA are to:

· sort and identify humanitarian assistance supplies;

· rapidly identify and prioritize distribution of those supplies urgently needed by the disaster-affected population;

· maintain inventory and distribution control in warehouses;

· enter all incoming supplies in the SUMA database. National authorities use reports generated for decision-making;

· register consignments that are delivered to consignees;

· keep national authorities and donors informed about items received;

· keep disaster managers informed about items available for distribution.

In most countries in the Region of the Americas, SUMA focal points have been designated to coordinate the project. Among the institutions involved in the project are: ministries of health and other health agencies, civil defense or national emergency agencies, ministries of foreign affairs, customs departments, Red Cross Societies, fire fighters, and non governmental organizations involved in humanitarian assistance.

One of the most important features of SUMA is its flexibility. It can be used in many different emergency situations, and for response to natural disasters as well as in complex emergencies. The development and modification of the software has depended on constant feedback from national team members who have used it in a variety of disaster situations and training sessions.