Indonesia urgently needs to set up a humanitarian logistics system

Limited availability of heavy equipment and humanitarian aid makes it hard for victims of disaster in Palu, Donggala, Sigi and Parigi-Moutong. EPA/Hotli Simanjuntak

Situated on the disaster-prone Pacific Ring of Fire, Indonesia urgently needs to set up a humanitarian logistics system. Following an earthquake and tsunami in Central Sulawesi on Friday, 28 September 2018, search and rescue workers in Central Sulawesi have struggled to save victims trapped under rubble due to lack of heavy equipment.

At least 1,300 people have died, and tens of thousands of have been displaced. They need various supplies to survive, including electricity, clean water, food, medicine, tents, blankets, baby diapers and sanitary napkins.

The scarcity of heavy equipment and humanitarian aid have made the situation in affected areas in Palu, Donggala, Sigi and Parigi-Moutong very dire. Some residents are leaving Palu and other affected areas to safer locations.

Palu residents queue up to leave Palu from Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport, Palu, Central Sulawesi, October 1, 2018. EPA / Hotli Simandjuntak

Humanitarian logistics

Indonesia is an archipelago with around 17,000 islands. Connectivity between the western and eastern parts of the country has long been an issue. Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi, is located more than 2,200 kilometers northeast of Jakarta, Indonesia.

Indonesia has a logistics system to transport goods between various parts of the country. But it’s not designed to handle emergency disasters. So, when large disasters strike, such as in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara in July and August and in Central Sulawesi last weekend, Indonesia struggled to deliver humanitarian aid to these areas.

Indonesia did develop a disaster logistics system. Following the devastating 2004 tsunami in Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia’s Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR) with the World Food Program (WFP) developed a system to respond to emergencies and to support Aceh’s recovery process between 2005 and 2009.

In 2010, WFP and relevant ministries designed a Humanitarian Logistics Master Plan (HLMP). The National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) is assigned to oversee and coordinate this disaster logistics master plan, including its integration into the national logistics system.

But the government has yet adopted this master plan. Currently, the development of Indonesia’s logistics system is geared toward economic growth by accelerating and extending economic development in Indonesia’s eastern regions.

Challenges to building humanitarian logistics system

Building a logistics system is not simple, especially one that’s focused on disaster management. A disaster logistics system is more complex than a general logistics system because of the uncertainty of the threats and vulnerabilities.

Indonesia should consider at least eight challenges to integrate a disaster emergency logistics system into the national system:

  1. long chain of logistics supply
  2. complicated bureaucratic procedures, especially related to customs
  3. weak shipping connectivity
  4. inefficient port services and operations
  5. poor connectivity in affected area
  6. large burden handled by the aviation sector
  7. limited international connectivity
  8. and weak coordination between central and regional governments in handling disaster logistics.

Additionally, Indonesia needs to consider building more roads and ports to improve connectivity between islands and regions. There should be roads and ports connecting points within cities and districts too.
In relation to logistics supply, Indonesia also faces challenges. Commodity prices for humanitarian aid are relatively high, service providers and logistics commodities have limited capacity, human resources capacity in logistics management is low, and there are still limited uses of technology in disaster management logistics.

Finally, in relation to the emergency aspects of disaster management, Indonesia faces several problems. Leadership and coordination on disaster logistic management is weak. People are not trained in disaster management logistics. It doesn’t have a sophisticated information system for logistic management. And it does not have special depots to accommodate disaster emergency logistics.

Setting up humanitarian logistics for Sulawesi

To manage the disaster in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia needs to immediately establish a disaster emergency logistics system.

For the initial stages these steps are worth considering:

  1. create an inventory of emergency logistics needs that are urgent and those that are less urgent to be provided at a later stage

  2. identify supplies that can be obtained locally and supplies that need to be delivered from outside the affected area, including from outside Indonesia

  3. map disaster emergency logistics needs of victims, both in temporary shelters as well those scattered in other areas

  4. sort and classify the types of disaster emergency logistics; for example basic necessities (clothing, medicine and emergency kits), temporary shelter, and heavy equipment for search and rescue and for cleaning up affected areas from debris

  5. create contingency plans in distributing humanitarian aid and equipment to ensure a fast evacuation and rescue process, and to ensure all affected areas receive humanitarian support

  6. build several logistics depots at the district/sub-district level that can shelter logistical supplies for distribution

  7. assign an agency to manage disaster emergency logistics systems at the provincial and district/city levels affected in Central Sulawesi, under the coordination of the Central Sulawesi Disaster Management Task Force Team.

The national government and regional government, as well as relevant stakeholders need to be very committed to implement the steps above.

The disaster management in Central Sulawesi can then be used as a basis to further preparing a national humanitarian logistics system. This will strengthen the national disaster management system, especially at the local level in Indonesia.

This article was originally published in Indonesian