Optimizing the UN fleet of trucks and helicopters to deliver aid

This project focuses on transportation planning for emergency response, from both a behavioral and a modeling perspective. One key element missing from our understanding of humanitarian supply chains is the role of people, whose ability to improvise and to learn from experience may provide some advantages in the humanitarian context. On the other hand, mathematical models can better handle complex information and search large decision spaces. This project seeks to develop better decision-making approaches by understanding and building upon the strengths of people and models.

An analysis of the critical transportation corridors for WFP's Ethiopian supply chain

The WFP’s transport of food aid to Ethiopia’s landlocked population is constrained by trans-shipment processing bottlenecks at the port, and limited availability of trucks for inland transport. This thesis analyzes the quantitative and qualitative factors used in selecting routes and mitigating port bottlenecks.

Analytical Hierarchy Process to help the WFP chose the location of an Ethiopian warehouse

WFP needed to locate new warehouses in the Somali region of Ethiopia to facilitate efficient flows from ports to final distribution points. Given the challenges of gathering the extensive data required for traditional network design techniques, as well as WFP’s desire to incorporate qualitative criteria, this study used the Analytic Hierarchy Process to structure the decision making.

Modeling transportation pricing for the WFP’s Ethiopian supply chain

How can WFP Ethiopia better manage third-party transportation carriers to improve service quality and reduce costs? This study uses an econometric analysis of historical transportation rates in Ethiopia to determine cost/service drivers and predictive parameters. We also develop indicators to measure carrier performance and create a tool to facilitate carrier selection.

An analysis of WFP operations in the Somali region of Ethiopia

Security concerns and poor infrastructure in the Somali region of Ethiopia endanger and delay the flow of commodities through the WFP’s supply chain. This thesis analyzes the impact on transportation rates and transit time, assesses methods to mitigate risks, such as escorted convoys, and proposes some new approaches to improve the overall security of commodity flows.


Best practices for companies contributing to disaster response initiatives

Why are some companies more effective within disaster relief supply chains than others? This research explores and consolidates best practices applied effectively by companies during past disasters.


An analysis of the 2004 South East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami

By analyzing a survey from the Fritz Institute and KPMG which measured the response to the 2004 SE Asia earthquake and tsunami, this study concludes that while the relief effort was effective, there were deficiencies in the following areas: initial assessment, collaboration, trained logistics experts, and supply chain analysis.


Creating metrics for standardized country-level logistics reporting

This initiative focuses on how humanitarian organizations can measure and manage the performance of supply chain & logistics processes. With the International Rescue Committee, we developed a resource toolkit for field logistics staff including simplified logistics process maps, checklists, and guidance on required internal controls. We now seek to extend this work by incorporating other humanitarian organizations. 

Developing a Multi-Sectoral Needs Assessment to Track Demand Over Time

The Humanitarian Response Lab worked with the US Government and members of the humanitarian community to develop a multi-sectoral humanitarian needs assessment. We were part of a team that developed and deployed a four-month survey of internally displaced persons camps in Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas. The resulting data identified urgent needs -- such as camps with little access to shelter -- and showed how the needs of those in the camps changed over time.


Managing the growth of a non-profit healthcare supply chain in Haiti

This project develops a model using historical consumption data of Partners in Health’s medical supplies to forecast future demand. We compare PIH’s current annual order policy with ordering policies with more frequent reviews, and find that more frequent orders will drastically reduce warehouse space requirements for PIH.

Humanitarian Response Lab

The mission of the MIT Humanitarian Response Lab is to help meet human needs by understanding and improving the crisis response systems behind public services and private markets. Based within the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics, the Response Lab combines MIT expertise in engineering, management, technology, economics, urban studies and planning and other disciplines to drive practical innovation for humanitarian response.


The MIT Humanitarian Response Lab develops humanitarian leaders through graduate coursework, practical projects and simulation training. Graduate coursework is concentrated in logistics and supply chain management; and MIT collaborates with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and the Tufts Feinstein International Center to support the broader Humanitarian Studies Initiative. Students in the Response Lab build on coursework by conducting relevant research projects for companies, NGOs and governmental bodies. Finally, MIT actively facilitates simulation training with organizations like the UN Logistics Cluster.


The MIT Humanitarian Response Lab conducts research to understand and improve crisis response systems. It focuses on two key components within these systems: supply chain management and decision making processes. Supply chains are the critical link in meeting needs with supplies provided by donors; and MIT researchers have years of experience designing supply chains and developing management approaches. Response Lab researchers also combine experience in optimizing decisions and developing technology to create new automation tools and decision support systems for a broad range of critical decisions during a crisis.


The MIT Humanitarian Response Lab has a passion for placing students in the field and putting ideas into practice. Each course incorporates guest speakers and exercises drawn from field experience; and the Response Lab strives to connect students with internships and other field-based engagements. All research projects involve partners from the government, NGO and or private sectors; and researchers remain involved with partners through implementation challenges. Finally, the Response Lab aims to build capacity within the MIT community to play a productive role in supporting response actions.

If you would like to learn more, please contact Jarrod Goentzel (goentzel@mit.edu).