1. Logistics

1.1 Role of logistics in humanitarian operations

1.2 CI roles and responsibilities for logistics

1.3 Role of logistics personnel in an emergency team

1.3.1 Logistics support positions


Note! In an emergency response, especially in its early stages, it is vital that logistics systems are set up quickly and effectively. However, designing and implementing these systems competes with time restraints and urgent demands from the field sites. The need for effective logistics systems is too often underestimated. If the right procedures are not put in place early, problems will develop that will be difficult to sort out later and can seriously affect the agency’s capacity to respond. Long-term damage to programmes can be caused by mistakes made early on when resources are stretched.

Needs and resources assessment

  • Determine needs and formulate programme response requirements in close coordination with Program staff.
  • Contribute to the design and define the operational programme support needs and establish an intervention strategy.

Procurement process   (see Chapter 2 Procurement)

  • Establish rapid procurement processes appropriate to the emergency situation to ensure the organisation has the resources needed to meet identified needs.
  • Identify sources of goods and services required, and the way in which they will be acquired.

Transport and customs

  • Put in place transport arrangements to ensure supplies reach the places they are needed.
  • Develop a transport strategy that takes account of the different types of transport to get supplies from one place to another, as well as back-up options that facilitate the prompt and safe delivery of relief assistance.
  • For imported goods, manage customs processes to ensure CARE is able to access the goods in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Warehousing and storage

  • Make arrangements for warehousing and storage to protect supplies and ensure accountability through  an organised system until they can be delivered to their ultimate recipient.
  • Ensure appropriate storage of reserve supplies for future or unforeseen needs.


  • Deliver the aid to the people affected by a disaster (or to partners entrusted with distribution of relief supplies) according to project/program plan through well-organised distribution systems that ensure aid is provided safely for both staff and beneficiaries, accountable and properly controlled to prevent misuse or waste.

Putting it all together

  • Remember that all of the above components are closely linked.
  • Ensure that links in the supply chain do not fail. The failure or ineffective functioning of any of the links will affect overall performance of the system.


If the transport of a load of supplies has been organised correctly, but upon arrival it turns out that no arrangements were made for storage, the efficiency of the transport effort will be to no avail. Alternatively, if there are enough resources to cover the needs of an affected area, but no transport to take them where they are needed, all other successful efforts will be, for all practical purposes, useless. One broken link is all that is needed for the chain to fail.

Adequate consideration of logistics issues during preparedness and contingency planning greatly assists the rapid mobilisation of logistics operations in response to an emergency. The checklist below provides a quick guide for logistics preparedness planning. See also Chapter 9 EPP, and Annex 9.2 CO logistics preparedness questionnaire.

3.1 Logistics preparedness planning key questions


  • Include logistics in the initial rapid needs assessment.
  • Translate the assessment into an operational plan that addresses budget requirements, infrastructure requirements (including offices, warehouses and staffing), transport and movement planning, items required, sourcing, procurement schedules, and distribution plans.
  • Manage logistics and supply activities appropriately through start-up, implementation and close-down phases.

4.1 Logistics rapid assessment

4.1.1 Logistics rapid assessment key questions

4.2 Operational planning

4.3 Managing logistics and supply activities over time

4.3.1 Overview of logistics and supply activities over the duration of a programme


  • Identify what supplies or people need to be moved and to where.
  • Identify feasible, available transport options, requirements, route and schedule planning.
  • Arrange contracts with transport providers.
  • Ensure insurance terms are included.
  • Check that an ‘Incoterms’ has been included at procurement stage for goods requiring international transport.
  • Ensure all appropriate transport documents are in place.
  • Ensure appropriate controls are in place at sending and receiving stages.
  • Follow appropriate customs procedures where transportation involves international movement of supplies.

5.1 Defining transport needs

5.2 Forms of transport

5.2.1 Characteristics of different means of transport

5.3 Specific planning considerations for road transport of supplies to programme sites

5.3.1 Formula to estimate the number of vehicles required

5.4 Transport contracting

5.4.1 Transport contract modalities

5.5 Insurance

5.6 Incoterms

6. Warehousing and storage

5.7 Transport documents

5.7.1 Transport documents required

5.8 Ensure controls at the time of packing and arrival

5.9 Customs procedures

5.9.1 Import restrictions


  • Decide on the level of stock required and ensure good stock management.
  • Determine storage space requirements based on the level of stock required.
  • Select a warehouse that meets adequate design requirements including security, access, size, ventilation, location and utilities.
  • Ensure all goods are received by the storekeeper and inspected on delivery.
  • Ensure the warehouse space is organised to facilitate effective storekeeping and comply with safety standards, and allow sufficient space for delivery and packing.
  • Implement good piling/stacking practices.
  • Implement an appropriate rotary system for the order of stock coming in and out, considering expiry dates.
  • Ensure food storage complies with a food safety checklist.
  • If good quality warehouse options are not available, consider emergency storage solutions such as containers and Rubb halls.
  • Implement minimum standards for warehouse management tools, including the use of waybills, and other standard warehouse and inventory management documentation.
  • Put in place adequate warehouse staffing including storekeeper and loaders.
  • Consider sharing warehouse space with other NGOs as a cost-saving measure but ensure very clear delineation of space, controls and liabilities.
  • Supply the warehouse with adequate levels of materials and equipment.
  • Ensure safety measures are in place including safety equipment and practices.
  • Put controls in place to minimise security risks to warehouse and stock.

6.1 Stock management

6.2 Storage volume and space needed

6.2.1 How to calculate space required

6.3 Warehouse selection and design considerations

6.4 Receiving goods and delivery inspection

6.5 Space management

6.5.1 Storage of products

6.6 Piling systems for ease of checking

6.7 Rotation systems

6.8 Food storage and safety checklist

6.9 Alternative storage options when warehousing is unavailable

6.10 Warehouse management tools

6.10.1 Warehouse management tools-minimum requirements

6.11 Warehouse staffing

6.11.1 Storekeeper

6.11.2 Loaders

6.12 Warehouse handling material and equipment

6.13 Sharing a warehouse with other NGOs

6.14 Safety standards

6.15 Security

7.1 Working with the Logistics Cluster


  • Immediately start distribution: The concept of ‘assessment teams not arriving empty handed’ is viewed as an important step to provide immediate support and develop relations with affected communities. This can be done by reallocating relief materials already on hand to facilitate quick relief distributions to affected areas (CARE Indonesia).
  • Facilitate fast response by having ‘go-kits’: Pre-positioned stocks of  deployment kits (backpacks, sleeping bags, tents, CARE vests, etc.) ensured that staff were readily able to start assessments and distribution (CARE Indonesia).
  • Establish decentralized warehousing facilities at the district level: Decentralized warehouses provide more flexibility in planning/implementing distributions at the village level, especially in relation to unanticipated delays with resource deliveries and the implementation of last-minute changes. This approach can also reduce burden on the state office logistics teams who only need to plan the dispatch of bulk consignments to district warehouses (CARE India).
  • Establish an identity card (‘token’) system: The distribution of ‘tokens’ to families assisted in smoother distributions at the village level and reduced the potential for abuses by recipients. The ‘family card token’ was effective in tracking distributions and promoted distribution transparency.
  • Promote shared responsibility for security among local partner(s) and village representatives for items that are stored temporarily: Items (usually stored for a day) resulted in no losses at the community level. According to local NGO partner (CREED) representatives, it was clearly understood that the local partner had assumed full liability of relief items temporarily stored at the community level, which motivated them to ensure adequate security at the community level. Temples and churches were also effective storage sites, as local beliefs (taboos) prevented criminals from stealing from them (CARE India).
  • Airlift/transport services: Use a combination of both free airlift services and commercial air transport services. This allows more influence and control of scheduling consignments, and can reduce pipeline gaps when free transport options can’t meet demand.
  • Deploy experienced people with knowledge of CARE systems: Experienced workers with knowledge of relevant documentation requirements should be deployed to train newly hired staff members. If experienced workers are unavailable, trainers should have basic knowledge of generic accountability/control systems.
  • Expand approved vendor lists: Approved vendor lists should have an increased focus on distribution and logistics services providers (transport, warehousing, security, etc.). For storage facilities, this requires identifying beforehand the minimum standards and required characteristics, desired locations, and establishing ongoing relationships with warehouse owners to ensure priority access for future emergencies.
  • Develop standard relief packages: Categories of relief packages (for example, family packs, kitchen packs, hygiene packs) should be standardized with clear specifications that can be included in the vendor/price lists for faster procurement of relief items.
  • Backstopping: Obtain/negotiate additional backstopping associated with program logistics from CARE’s Emergency Group (CEG) during the initial phase of emergency response. This is important when the response requires the establishment of new offices, warehouses, logistics chains and/or interventions with which the CO has little experience.

CARE staff deployment kits: Kits should include a week’s supply of water purification tablets and instant food packets to ensure staff has access to adequate food and water during the initial response phase.