For the decade ending in 2010, floods accounted for nearly half of all
natural disasters. Floods affected a large number of people, especially in
Asia. Despite the fact that the number of floods per year has been increasing
exponentially since 1900, there is very little in the operations literature on
humanitarian supply chains that deals with floods. Compared to earthquakes,
floods are more predictable in terms of timing and location. Therefore, there
is an opportunity to involve "local entities" for better preparedness and
mitigation. Thus, we seek to answer the question: what type of supply chain can
facilitate humanitarian relief and hasten economic recovery in case of floods,
especially in the Asian context?
We find three gaps in the existing solutions: (1) preparedness against
floods that occur frequently especially at the 'last mile' areas, (2) response
to medium-sized floods that do not attract the attention of international NGOs
or central government but create economic havoc for the people in the affected
areas, and (3) recovery of the affected areas. Firstly, there is a gap in
preparedness efforts. Greater attention needs to be paid to preparedness at the
'local' level to ensure people continue to have access to essential goods
during a flood. Given the recurrence and the predictable nature of general
floods, such preparedness should be semi-permanent rather than one-off events.
Secondly, there is a gap in response as regards 'medium-sized' floods that are
not large enough to attract the attention of the international or even national
NGOs but still large enough to disrupt the local economy. For a massive flood
with a 2% chance of occurrence in a given year, the central government or even
international humanitarian relief organisations are likely to be involved in
responding to the resulting humanitarian crisis. For a small flood with a 20%
chance of occurrence in a given year, local communities in flood-prone areas
have to devise local solutions to assist affected people. However, in the case
of a medium-sized flood, international or central government humanitarian
relief is unlikely to be available. At the same time, local solutions would be
inadequate because normal supply chain operations would be disrupted, and
relief efforts would require a coordinated region-wide effort possibly
involving NGOs, local government and manufacturers of essential goods. In this
case, who should organise the response for medium-sized flood?
Finally, there continues to be a gap in solutions for economic recovery,
especially when the economic disruption and losses occur almost annually.
Economic solutions have to be tailored to the local economy.