Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Working Group

The Humanitarian Supply Chain Lab helps lead the MIT Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Working Group. The MIT Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Working Group seeks to provide a forum in which students and faculty can share their research and insights into the critical field of humanitarian and disaster relief with the aim of fostering interdisciplinary, practical solutions to the problems facing the worlds most vulnerable populations. The goal is to establish a campus organization that represents the community of those interested in the field at MIT on campus and build the presence and reputation of MIT in this field in Boston and throughout the world.  The group focuses on exploring research and field research methods as well as building stronger connections with other institutions in the Boston area.  Activities include a humanitarian practitioner roundtable series, a guest lecture series and discussions of research works in progress by various members of the working group.  The group has hosted the following seminars for the 2016 - 2017 academic year:

Storage Technologies to Reduce Post-Harvest Loss – Panel Discussion
About the Speakers: Dieudonné Baributsa is Associate Professor of Entomology, Jarrod Goentzel is the Founder and Director of the MIT Humanitarian Supply Chain Lab, and Johnson Kagoye is  Program Officer at United Nations World Food Program.
Abstract: It is estimated that 54% of food losses occur during production, post-harvest handling, and storage. Various storage technologies have been designed to address losses due to insects, rodents, mold infiltration, etc. This talk describes projects that established storage technology supply chains and training among smallholder farmers in Africa and shares research aimed to scale future efforts.

Food Aid Packaging: How to reduce food aid spoilage?
About the Speakers: Mark Brennan and Prithvi Sundar are both graduate students in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. They are researchers for the Comprehensive Initiative for Technology Evaluation (CITE) and have contributed to several research projects for the initiative during their graduate studies.
Abstract: Each year, nearly $2.2 billion is spent on food aid programs around the globe. USAID Food for Peace accounts for about 80%. This study aims to evaluate the cost effectiveness of transportation and storage of food aid commodities. With an estimated procurement of $1 million, MIT tested a range of and shipping options, commodities, and foreign ports. This study explores how packaging can used across shipping options, commodities, and foreign ports. This study explores how packaging can be used as a lever in food aid supply chain design.

WFP's Food Procurement and Linking Farmers to Markets: An Experience in Balancing Objectives
About the Speaker: Nicole Menage worked for the United Nations for almost 34 years, of which close to 32 were with the World Food Programme (WFP).  She was Country Director and Representative in Nepal until the end of last year. Before that, she was Chief of the Food Procurement Service, then Director of the Procurement Division, based in WFP’s headquarters in Rome. Her previous positions also include Country Director and Representative in Tanzania; Chief of the Great Lakes, Ethiopia and Djibouti Section of the Africa Bureau, based in Rome; and Country Director and Regional Procurement Coordinator for Southern Africa, based in Zimbabwe.  She also served in Togo, Malawi and Burundi.
Abstract: This seminar will examine the challenges and benefits that the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has seen in purchasing the majority of the food it provides as humanitarian assistance on local and regional markets in developing countries. It will further explore how WFP met the request from many of its donor governments for the organization to review its approach to this procurement in order to achieve a greater developmental impact, particularly by purchasing from smaller-scale farmers and nascent businesses.  How to procure in the most cost-efficient manner and yet contribute in a more meaningful way to the economies of the developing countries tapped is being increasingly studied in the business world as well as the humanitarian realm and a topic that is now of great concern to many.

Drones for Delivery: Distributing Critical Medical Supplies in Rwanda
About the speaker: James Coughlan is a UPS Loaned Executive to Global Funds for AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. James Coughlan also serves as the Global Solutions Director.
Abstract: Through a partnership between UPS, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and Zipline, drones are being used to deliver critical medical supplies, such as blood for transfusions, from cities to rural or remote locations in Rwanda where the lack of transportation infrastructure causes millions of preventable deaths each year. Mr. Coughlan will highlight the innovative and operational aspects of the initiative as well as provide background on a unique public private partnership funding strategy.

Health and Humanitarian Logistics Conference

The annual Health and Humanitarian Logistics Conference is co-organized by the MIT Humanitarian Supply Chain Lab, the Georgia Tech Center for Health & Humanitarian Systems (HHS), the INSEAD Humanitarian Research Group, and Northeastern University. The 9th annual conference will be hosted June 7-9, 2017 by the UN City, Campus 1 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The objective of the Health and Humanitarian Logistics Conference is to strengthen supply chains that meet human needs by articulating the logistical challenges and successes in disaster response, global health and food security. The conference specifically includes the perspectives of those working directly in non-governmental organizations, as well as private companies and government agencies involved in the health and humanitarian sectors. The conference also serves to create awareness of opportunities for new research or technology solutions and to establish priorities for NGOs, corporations, and the government in terms of their strategies, policies, and investments.

Humanitarian Speaker Series

The Humanitarian Speaker Series talks are free and open to the MIT community. Refreshments are provided with support from the Center for International Studies. The series has hosted the following speakers:

Johnson Kagoye, Programme Officer, World Food Programme Zero Food Loss Initiative
Paola Corrado, Head of Logistics for Ethiopia, UN World Food Programme (WFP)
Jeffrey Dorko, Assistant Administrator and Head of Logistics, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Lawrence Wein, Jeffrey S. Skoll Professor of Management Science, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University
Rebecca Vince, Cash and Markets Officer, Global Logistics Cluster, UN World Food Programme (WFP)
Rich Serino, Deputy Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
José Holguín-Veras, William H. Hart Professor and Director of the Center for Infrastructure, Transportation, and the Environment, RPI
Ian Heigh, Director, Everywhere Humanitarian Response and Logistics Services
Özlem Ergun, Professor, School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology
Irina Dolinskaya, Assistant Professor, Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences, Northwestern University
Alex Markowski, Director of Logistics, New York City Office of Emergency Management
Jason Phillips, Deputy Vice President, Field Operations, International Rescue Committee
Martijn Blansjaar, Head of Logistics and Supply, International Division Oxfam Great Britain
Bernard Chomilier, Head of Logistics Development Unit, UN World Food Progamme (WFP)
Pablo Suarez, Red Cross / Red Crescent Climate Centre and Boston University Dept. of Geography and Environment
Dr. Hilarie Cranmer, Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Dr. Peter Walker, Director of the Feinstein Center for International Studies, Tufts University
Mike Byrne, FEMA Director of Operations during 9/11 and Chief Program Executive, Louisiana Road Home Program
Kristian Olson, Massachusetts General Hospital
Col. William C. Summers, Chief of the European Deployment and Distribution Operations Center (EDDOC), US Air Force

Annual Conferences                                                            

  • Helped Lead 3rd Global Health Supply Chain Summit, MIT-Zaragoza, 2010  
  • Helped Lead 2nd Global Health Supply Chain Summit, MIT-Zaragoza, 2009
  • Founded Session Track for Matching Supply and Need in Resource-Constrained Settings at CSCMP Annual Conference, Denver, Colorado, October 2008
  • Helped Lead 1st Global Health Supply Chain Summit, MIT-Zaragoza, 2008