Analysing the Gujarat Earthquake - International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent

Even before the phone rings, the clock has already begun ticking. What’s at stake are homes, roads, infrastructure, communities, people’s lives. For the aid organisations responding to a disaster “rapid deployment is absolutely crucial in order to save lives,” says Professor Luk N. Van Wassenhove. Logistics under any circumstances is difficult, in the context of a disaster it’s magnified many times over. “Flows of goods, information, money and people have to be quickly configured and deployed. All of this in often very difficult and stressful circumstances.” In this new case, Professors Van Wassenhove, Kumar and Becerra-Fernandez, along with Ramina Samii, consider the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent’s response to the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat, India. This was the first disaster the IFRC had responded to after a major internal reorganisation. How did it fare in the face of this massive disaster? Read on.

by Luk Van Wassenhove, Irma Becerra-Fernandez,Kuldeep Kumar,Ramina Samii
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

In this new case looking at the role of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) as a choreographer of disaster management, Professor Luk Van Wassenhove, the Henry Ford Chaired Professor of Manufacturing at INSEAD, Research Associate Ramina Samii, Kuldeep Kumar, the Ryder Eminent Scholar and Professor of Information Systems, and Irma Becerra-Fernandez, Assistant Professor of Decision Sciences and Information Systems at Florida International University, take us through the group’s response to a massive natural disaster.

The case begins in Gujarat, India, just after the January 2001 earthquake fractured the community. The case considers the IFRC’s management of the disaster relief, more specifically its strategic approach to this natural disaster, how its logistics systems and resource mobilization function, and how its management could be optimised for a successful response.

Like a choreographer, the IFRC conducts the mobilization of the National Societies for each disaster. Out of the 178 that exist worldwide, one or more will be directly involved for each specific disaster. They must be prepared to work with a number of other partners on the scene, such as volunteers, country organizations including the army, NGOs and media, all of which needed to function efficiently in the high-pressure situation.

The case reviews the internal and external efforts of the IFRC to implement a flexible and efficient logistics system that maximises the contribution of each party. As the authors explain, the IFRC must respond to “don’t know when, where, what, how much and how many times.” More specifically, it explains that there are four traits of the IFRC’s disaster management supply chain; it is multiple, global, dynamic and temporary.

For example, at any given time, the IFRC could be dealing with a number of major and “competing” disasters around the world. During the same period as the Gujarat earthquake, it was dealing with four other disasters, including a snow blizzard in Inner Mongolia and a drought in Tajikistan. There is also a high level of dynamism in disaster management both on the demand and supply side, as it is crucial to make assessments and then adjust and respond to needs. The IFRC must also construct temporary cooperation alliances and supply chain systems involving its range of partners.

“Goodwill and effort is great but they become a lot more effective if supported by good processes and project management,” says Professor Van Wassenhove. That is why it is essential that disaster management logistics be woven into the strategy of the humanitarian aid organization. “An efficient response to a disaster situation is very much dependent upon rapid deployment of excellent logistics capabilities,” he says, and in fact, very little can be done if the basic logistics infrastructure has not been put in place.

This case, and its accompanying teaching note, is useful in MBA and executive courses addressing logistics, production and operations management, and supply chain management, as well as non-profit organisations.


Luk Van Wassenhove, Irma Becerra-Fernandez,Kuldeep Kumar,Ramina Samii recommends

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