CARE/UPS partnership delivers new system to speed aid in emergencies - CARE

CARE/UPS partnership delivers new system to speed aid in emergencies

Men carrying bags of food inside a temporary warehouse

Bags of emergency food aid are temporarily stored at a distribution point in Rann, Nigeria. Photo: Azure Studios/CARE

Bags of emergency food aid are temporarily stored at a distribution point in Rann, Nigeria. Photo: Azure Studios/CARE

While the phrase: “supply chain issues” was once jargon known only to those in the shipping, inventory, and logistics space, COVID-19 brought it to the mainstream. Due to the disruptions caused by the pandemic, ships were logjammed in ports, staffing issues affected road and rail transport, and millions of goods were delayed, resulting in empty shelves and missing deliveries.

CARE/UPS deliver new aid-tracking system

The global supply chain is a necessity not just for consumer goods, but for humanitarian aid. CARE’s humanitarian team recently worked with UPS, the global shipping and logistics giant, to design a software-based solution for operations support.

The global supply chain is a necessity not just for consumer goods, but for humanitarian aid. For food, clean water, and hygiene kits to be delivered to those in need, when they need it, the supply chain has to be in good working order – even in parts of the world that may be difficult to access.

In much of the world, CARE’s process for getting aid into countries and to program participants is manual and paper-based. Until recently that also included Nigeria. “Those business processes… required significant time and resources from the staff members,” says Dilip Niroula, CARE’s manager for Program Support and Logistics. “It was not efficient.”

Close up of hands holding paper with writing
A worker holds a handwritten inventory record in Ngala, Nigera. Photo: Azure Studios/CARE

To address this widespread issue, CARE’s humanitarian team worked with United Parcel Service, the global shipping and logistics giant, to design a software-based solution for operations support. The CARE and UPS partnership goes back 25 years.

“Back in 2019, when we were prioritizing what types of projects we were going to work on with CARE and the UPS foundation… this is one of those projects we thought made the most impactful results,” says Dan Keim, director of Humanitarian Logistics for UPS.

Man inspecting stacks of emergency food aid
Lloyd Edache James, a warehouse coordinator for CARE Nigeria, inspects food supplies in Ngala, Nigeria. Photo: Azure Studios/CARE

Strengthening capacity and efficiency

For humanitarian operations in West Africa, the new system has strengthened local capacity and efficiency, allowing program staff in each country to reach more people systematically.

“Our stock management capacity has improved, thereby supporting our decision-making process, particularly on procurement and warehouse management,” says Hussaini Abdu, Nigeria country director for CARE. “The scale of our operations in the field is growing. It therefore means we will need more of this support.”

For CARE and UPS, it wasn’t as easy as just flipping a switch. A limited pilot in Sierra Leone in 2019 served as a proving ground. “Based on the success in Sierra Leone, we made a decision with the regional management team and the leadership there in the region to scale is up in all countries in West Africa, and that’s currently what we are doing,” Niroula says.

A man writes a note, crouching next to a line of boxes
Babagana Ibrahim, a safety and security assistant for CARE Nigeria, makes a note while inspecting inventory. Photo: Azure Studios/CARE Nigeria

Real-time knowledge

Why is software superior to paper? Consider that every item entering the country – or purchased within the country – must be entered into inventory, stored in a warehouse, then delivered efficiently when an emergency hits. Consider, also, that managers need to know real-time inventory levels to know when to request more supplies. All of that is difficult and time-consuming with a paper-based system, and in many cases, real-time knowledge may not be possible.

Once the UPS software solution is in place, inventory can be kept digitally and shared, and real-time movement of goods can be tracked.

“It’s an efficiency tool,” Keim says. “It’s an operational optimization tool.”

“What it enables the folks in the country offices to do is to know exactly what’s in the warehouse, where it’s located, if there are expiry dates when those expiry dates occur, and then how do they get those out in into the field when an inevitable disaster occurs?”

Halfway through its third decade, the CARE/UPS partnership has been a fruitful one, and one both organizations hope will continue to pay dividends to country offices and, by extension, to program participants. “It’s important that we use the technologies that are out there, and advancing, to really make it a better world to live in,” Keim adds.

Workers unload food supplies from a truck in Ngala, Nigera. Photo: Azure Studios/CARE