Case | HBS Case Collection | September 2014 (Revised March 2017)

Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief: What Can We Learn from Commercial Supply Chains?

by Willy Shih and Margaret Pierson


Organizing speedy and efficient supply operations for unpredictable major natural disasters was a continuing challenge for the U.S. military, and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti was both unique in its operational scope and political complexity. As he reviewed the after-action reports, George Topic, the Vice Director of the Center for Joint and Strategic Logistics at the National Defense University wondered how the performance of disaster relief efforts should really be measured. How should the efficiency of the response be characterized? He wondered if they could overcome some of the hurdles to applying concepts from commercial supply chains. The case explores some of the lessons learned from the Haiti disaster, and offers an opportunity to test well-known supply chain concepts.

Keywords: supply chains; humanitarian assistance; disaster relief; Logistics; Distribution; Logistics; Supply Chain; Supply Chain Management; Operations; Distribution Industry; United States; Haiti;


Shih, Willy, and Margaret Pierson. "Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief: What Can We Learn from Commercial Supply Chains?" Harvard Business School Case 615-003, September 2014. (Revised March 2017.)