Outbreak response: Logistics and security specialist
- When a list of essential stock has been developed as part of outbreak preparedness planning, an outbreak alert prompts logisticians to review this list with the teams to check if it is suitable. If necessary, modifications are made to suit the specifics of a particular outbreak.
- If there are no pre-agreed supplies lists, these need to be agreed at the time of the response; however, at this point, resources are already stretched so having the time and the right people available to do this can be challenging. The procurement process also requires certain frameworks to be established, which in themselves can be lengthy processes (sourcing, tendering, analysis, etc). If these are done at the time of the response, this can cause delays of weeks or months in receiving supplies. Where framework agreements exist (because they have been established during preparedness activities) supplies can be mobilised much faster – also allowing more predictability of availability and quality of supplies.
- Revisiting the market survey is crucial to understanding changes that might impact the delivery of the outbreak response. For example, changes in suppliers, import regulations or accessibility can all change the delivery of required supplies.
- When a disaster happens, it can have an impact on the market conditions – e.g. if borders are closed to avoid the spread of infectious diseases, this means import/export activities are impacted too, which can affect the availability and cost of supplies in the local market. If we were to rely on a market assessment done in advance of these changes, it would not be accurate. It is vital to have an accurate picture of the current market situation so that we can plan where to get supplies from; the timeframes this may take; or any quality compromises that might be necessary and what the impact of these compromises might be.
- Logisticians develop a sourcing plan and supply chain strategy to support delivery of essential materials needed for effective outbreak response.
- This will cover sourcing (procurement of materials or through gift in kind (GIK) supplies); importation requirements/point of entry for internationally procured items; warehousing needs; transportation and fleet services; reporting requirements; and logistics staffing needs.
- Logisticians provide input that is essential to preparing the budget for a response. After carrying out a local market assessment and using the sourcing strategy developed for the outbreak, they will understand how much items will cost.
- Logisticians’ input into the response budget plan ensures that all logistics costs are budgeted for (for example fuel and warehousing).
- Under-funding the logistics elements can undermine the ability to deliver any outbreak response in a timely manner.
- When the response is being implemented, the activities undertaken by logistics staff include:
- Logisticians ensure reporting mechanisms are in place for all logistics areas (procurement, fleet, stock movement and losses, assets movements, general stock and vaccines distributions).
- During the response, logistics coordinate with other stakeholders (internal and external) and contribute to the response logistics coordination plan
- An essential activity in any response is to ensure staff are trained properly. For logistics, this can range from stock and asset management to driver training and safe distribution of commodities.
- It is important that staff are trained on their roles and responsibilities, and organisational policies and procedures in order to mitigate delays in them conducting their tasks (which in turn would delay the response). It is also critical in regard to mitigating other risks – such as fraud and financial mismanagement. Logistics is often the custodian of very high value, lifesaving supplies. In order to ensure these are managed in line with sector best practice, donor requirements and organisational policies, it is critical to train staff.
Disease Outbreaks in Low and Middle Income Countries
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