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The Role of Humanitarian Logic in the Field of Natural Disaster: A Case Study of Limbe Floods

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Recent natural disasters such as the floods in Limbe in 2001 and later in 2007 have exposed the shortcomings in natural disaster management in Cameroon. In addition to the, natural disasters, the homeland security issues related to domestic issues have increased the fear factor making ‘readiness’ the principal priority. Humanitarian logistics is a critical element of an effective disaster relief process. The problem here is that in the management of natural disaster in Cameroon, humanitarian logistical services are conspicuously absent. Disaster management is left in the hands of other bodies which are more reactive than proactive in near approach. The main objective of this work is, therefore to discuss the role of humanitarian logistics, in the field of natural disaster management. Using a qualitative, exploratory and non- experimental research design, the study found out that in the case of Limbe, only one humanitarian body, the Red Cross, a rather unpopular organization in Cameroon was available, and its impact was not even felt. The main services were provided by the government body which proved to have serious shortcomings as a result of which there was general dissatisfaction in the management of the flood. The study thus concludes that humanitarian logistics is the best in natural disaster management and recommends that the government should install or admit, or create, or provide aid to humanitarian organizations; which can intervene in such circumstances.






1.1 The Background of the Study




Natural disasters are on the increase in today’s world, Tsunamis, floods, earthquakes, and of these all such calamities are on the verge of terminating the human race. The management of these natural disasters is now a great call for concern. This piece of work is to analyze the role of humanitarian logistics in the field of natural disaster management, especially floods. To this end, it considers the case of the 2001 flood in Limbe, Cameroon.


Despite the fact that the number of floods has been increasing exponentially since 1900, there is very little information in humanitarian logistics and its supply chain to deal with floods (Sodhi and Tang. 2013). Humanitarian logistics could be defined as the set of activities of planning. Implementing, and controlling the flow and storage of goods and materials in an efficient and cost-effective manner, as well as its related information, from point of origin to point of consumption for the purpose of alleviating the impact on vulnerable people (Thomas and Kopczak, 2005).


Humanitarian logistics differs fundamentally from commercial supply chains. The ultimate goal of commercial supply chains (Beamon and Balcik, 2008) 1S to deliver the right supplies in the right quantities to the right location at the right time, while the humanitarian aid chains objective is to provide humanitarian support in the form of medicine, food, shelter and water, and other supplies to the area affected by a large scale emergency. Commercial supply chains are more related to financial metrics, since they are indicators or market-need satisfaction and an organization’s ability to operate efficiently in cost and responsiveness (Kanter and Summers, 1987). For nonprofit supply chains, performance measurement is more related to intangible aspects such as alleviate human suffering and reduce human fatalities. For example, Santarelli et al. (2013). Evaluate the performance of humanitarian supply chains, considering five categories and for each of them several Key performance indicators (KPIs), for quantitative and qualitative, financial, and non-financial et al. (2007) proposed as measures of effectiveness (MOE) for an effective evacuation plan: evacuation time, cumulative exposure, and temporal/spatial risk factors. The equity or the evacuation plan is considered by Gaytán et al. (2013) who consider MOE maximum distribution time of the supplies to shelters, total cost of the plan, and maximum evacuation time. These measures are used to define critical decision including shelters to be opened, population to be transported to each shelter, transportation modes, and distribution centers to shelters. The performance of humanitarian logistics effort is also related to the last mile distribution center to beneficiaries. Huang et al. (2012) study the impact of the efficacy and equity of the distribution on the number and type of service vehicles, and structure of Vehicles routes.


The cycle for disaster management is often described as a process with four stages: 1) Mitigation, 2) Preparedness, 3) Response, and 4) Reconstruction. Flood logıstics oversees mainly the preparedness, response and reconstruction phases. For the purpose of this thesis, emphasis is made on the preparedness and response phases for the flood. The preparedness phase refers to several operations that should occur during the period before disaster strikes, unlike the response phase which deals with various operations that are simultaneously implemented just after a flood occurs. The preparedness phase is crucial and t Consists in the physical network design, the


Information and communications technology systems and the building of bases for institute information and communications tech collaboration in order to ensure people know evacuation options, location of pre-positioned emergency response supplies, shelter’s capacity to respond to disasters. In the response phase coordination and collaboration among all the players involved in the humanitarian flood emergency deserves particular attention (Cozzolino et al., 2012).


Moreover, at this stage activity are primarily focused on saving lives and preventing or mitigating further damage. Here the humanitarian operations rely mostly on logistics because they consider the distribution of food, medical supplies and other necessities on which human lives depend on,  and thus the importance of how quickly the logistics tasks are performed.


In the literature about disaster logistics, several authors highlight as a key issue the “last mile relief distribution” concept which involves the ultimate connector of humanitarian activities with the victims. This concept refers to the supply of relief items from the local distribution centers to the people affected by the disaster (Balcik et al., 2008). The last mile relief distribution is the ultimate stage of disaster relief operations, which is associated with the delivery of relief supplies from field warehouses to the affected people taking into account the key factors affecting such delivery.


Cameroon is a democratic republic with a surface area of 475,000 km2. Recent estimates (2012) put the population at about 22 million people (African Development Bank, 2013). Although the estimates indicate a moderate population density of 46 people per km2, the Rural-Urban Population Divide shows that 59.9 % of the population lives in urban areas while 40.1 % lives in rural areas (UNISDR Africa, 2010). The population density is thus uneven and particularly intense in the urban areas. This exacerbates the quest for basic services such as water, electricity, and other social amenities like appropriate housing, invariably leading to the development of slums and ghettos thereby increasing vulnerability to disasters.


It is estimated that between 70 % and 80 % of the urban population lives in slums with access to portable water limited to only 37.5 % (Nussbaum, 2010). This situation is made even worse by the fact that almost a half of the country’s population lives below the poverty line and unemployment currently stands at 30 % (CIA World Factbook, 2013). The lack of money and the need to sustain livelihood by any means ultimately lead to the lack of a culture of safety and disaster prevention among this portion of the population. In 2012, the country’s annual growth rate was 4.1% and the GDP per capita stood at USD 2,400. The national budget balance grew in deficit from 2.7 % in 2011 to 3.5 % in 2012 of the GDP and inflation stood above 3 % (African Development Bank, 2015). All these in addition to the fact that the country over the past 10 years has featured prominently amongst the most corrupt nations in the World (transparency International, 2013) emphasize the difficulty on the part of the government and other local stakeholders of finding resources for disaster management and putting them into effective use.


Cameroon is divided into 10 administrative regions-two (the North-West and South-West) are part of the former British administered territory of Southern Cameroons and the eight others are part of the former French administered territory of Cameroon.


The country can also be divided into a Christian south and Muslim north, and forested south and savanna north. There are more than 260 ethnic groups, each speaking a different dialect (Neba, 1990). The country has abundant natural resources ranging from fertile soils for agriculture, oil and gas, minerals such as gold, bauxite, and tin, to timber and other non-timber forest products. Since the 1990s, due to the extraction of oil off the coast of Limbe in the Gulf of Guinea, the country’s economic emphasis to some extent has shifted from agriculture to the extraction of oil and gas but revenues from the exploitation of these resources, and from oil in particular, have not been sufficiently channeled into structural investments in infrastructure and the productive sectors (African Development Bank, 2013). The city of Limbe is located along the coastal area of Fako Division, South-West Region of Cameroon. The indigenous people include the Bakweri, Isubu, and Creoles (Matute, 1988). It has beautiful coastal beaches, historic monuments, a botanic garden, and a wildlife center. It is not only an international tourist destination but the major petroleum and agricultural hub of Cameroon. The lone oil refinery 1s located in Limbe and the Cameroon Development Corporation’s (CDC) banana, palm, and rubber plantations are spread over a majority of the most favorable lands for settlement around the city. The Corporation also has its headquarters in Limbe. The city economic importance therefore cannot be overemphasized and this continues to account for the high influx or economic migrants who then exert pressure on the city’s already scarce natural and man-made resources. With a surface area of 545 km, and a population currently estimated at 120,000 inhabitants (Mosoke, 2012), Limbe has one of the highest population densities in Cameroon with 220 people per km2.


Equally, the city is characterized by a low-lying coastal plain, rising to a chain of horseshoe shaped hills with slopes of varying intensities towards the northeast and east, with the highest points reaching 362 m above sea level (Njabe and Fobang, 2006). The area exhibits the Characteristics of the Gulf of Guinea tropical equatorial climate of hot, moist, and dry conditions (Folack and Gana, 2003). Only about 10 miles from Dibuncha, the second wettest place in the world after Cherrapunji in India (UNU-EHS and UFS-DIMTEC, 2010). Limbe experiences very heavy torrential rains in the long rainy season (March-October) with the highest average monthly precipitation of about 700 mm recorded in June, July, and August (Neba, 1990). A drive through the city indicates an acute spatial disorganization with a mixture of planned and unplanned settlements, which are a reflection of a relative scarcity of suitable land for settlement as a result of rapid population growth and a lack of any effective land use development plan. This is because, possibilities of expansion are limited by the hilly nature of the eastern side, the Atlantic Ocean to the south, the Mt. Cameroon lava flow route to the west, and the plantations of the CDC to the north. The imminent construction of a deep seaport facility and a naval shipyard has not only exacerbated population influx but has further intensified land speculation.


Within the city small streams flow into larger drainage beds that converge into two main rivers (Limbe and Jenguele) that empty into the Atlantic Ocean. These rivers frequently overflow


their banks in the rainy season causing floods in the low-1ying areas that are just l-2 m above sea level. These are ideally the best parts for settlement but unfortunately there are no properly conceived drainage channels throughout the city. The situation is aggravated by settlement very close to the coastline at sea level with very poorly constructed, mostly wooden buildings. The hills that surround the city are made up of loose ferralitic and volcanic soils that easily disintegrate when they absorb a lot of water (Nwankiti, 1983). Poverty affects over 85 % of the Limbe population (Awum et al., 2001). That is why over 70 % of the population of Limbe lives in make- shift temporal structures constructed on floodplains, too close to the coastline, or on the hill slopes (areas declared as not suitable for habitation) and under slum-like conditions-a situation of high vulnerability to disaster (Mosoke, 2012). The intense seismic activity from Mt. Cameroon located in the nearby Buea Subdivision and the threat of lava flows into the city have made matters worse, the last eruption of Mt. Cameroon in 1999 emitted hot magma that burnt down a large section of a palm plantation and the closest magma solidified just a few kilometers from the city. All these, make Limbe a city highly vulnerable to disasters.


In this research thesis, the researcher seeks to defend the opinion that in situations of natural disasters, like the flooding in Limbe, Humanitarian organizations and not governmental organizations stand a better place to liberate the suffering victims. It has a more rapid, and organized approach to natural disaster management that is proactive rather than reactive. For this reason, it at the same time alleviates poverty and prepares the people ot a particular locality prone to flooding for the unknown.


1.2 The Problem Statement


Floods and many other disasters have occurred in Cameroon especially in Limbe. Government interventions are more reactive than proactive although its strategy to disaster management indicates both disaster preparedness and emergency intervention and rehabilitation.


There is a significant absence of humanitarian logistical services in the management of disasters in Cameroon, clearly evident in this case of Limbe. The number of deaths, inadequate amount of food, shelter and medical services, general dissatisfaction were all aspects that persisted in Limbe even with the fact that the government intervened to manage the disaster.


1.3 The Purpose of the Study


1.3.1 General Objective


Against the backdrop of this problem, the main purpose of this study is to discuss the role of humanitarian logistics, in the field of natural disaster management.


1.3.2 Specific Objectives


Flowing from the above general objective, this paper seeks to achieve the following specific objectives:


To examine the importance of logistical services

To define the main principles of humanitarian logistical services

1o indicates how superior humanitarian logistics is, in the management of natural disasters.

To identify the weaknesses of other organizations in the management of natural disasters

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