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Research: The role of local communities in disaster relief and recovery

A new paper by Brunel Business School expert, Professor Afshin Mansouri, highlights the critical role of local communities in disaster relief and recovery. The paper was co-authored with Dr Jennifer Bealt and published in the January 2018 issue of Disasters. In it, the authors discuss how the local community can form ad-hoc networks to provide effective and efficient disaster management.

 

The relief and recovery activities that need to be performed in the aftermath of a natural disaster (Figure 1) are not only numerous but also varied and complex. Moreover, humanitarian logistics activities are, normally, performed by multiple actors, each with their own set of resources and expertise. As a result, disaster relief and recovery efforts are sometimes thwarted by problems such as:

  • Poor coordination among humanitarian organisations (HOs)
  • Lack of commitment
  • Failures to bridge the gap between relief and development activities
  • Competition for funding, media attention, and scarce resources
  • Managerial attention focused on accountability to donors to the detriment of the needs of the population affected by the disaster

Conversely, as Professor Mansouri and his co-author argue, when local responders form collaborative aid networks (CAN), they may greatly improve the success of relief and recovery efforts. This is because of the wealth of knowledge and skills already in existence within those communities. Moreover, their solutions tend to be self-reliant, participatory, and inclusive.

Specifically, the involvement of the local community in post-disaster operations has two main benefits:

First, the capacity, local knowledge, and resources possessed by CANs can support relief and recovery efforts significantly. The collaborative nature of local networks allows for improved dissemination of resources and information on needs. Furthermore, their ability to share information leads to more efficient and effective humanitarian operations, tailored specifically to the disaster-affected community. Local knowledge and expertise also has ensured proficient distribution of goods and competent navigation of the terrain.

Second, CANs support a more inclusive approach to long-term recovery, a process with which HOs often struggle. CAN involvement in humanitarian operations may increase the resilience of disaster-affected societies and decrease their vulnerability to hazard events in the future. By recognising the power and influence of community-driven supply chains, and the positive effects of community-led engagement in humanitarian operations, the effective communication of needs to a variety of stakeholders is facilitated in the face of adversity.

(source)

An open access (free) version of the paper can be accessed here.

Professor Mansouri is Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Management, and Director of Research at Brunel Business School. His research activities focus on improving the effectiveness, efficiency, and fairness of humanitarian operations, as well analysing trade-offs between the environmental, economic, and social sustainability dimensions in supply chains.