Saturday, May 10, 2008
Myanmar - My Theory On LOGISTICS Remains Intact
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand. The key to any rescue effort resides in the execution of a LOGISTICAL PLAN.
I made this point right after Hurricane Katrina in the USA where we saw great public outrage regarding the execution of the emergency response efforts. Where as most people turned it all into a political attack as the live streaming television cameras documented the human misery of Americans that Americans are not used to see other Americans experiencing - the fact remains that between the shout of "DO SOMETHING!" and the actual arrival of substantive aid - there is a bunch of logistical challenges that must be addressed.
For those on the ground attempting to respond to this human suffering - a convoy of 100 trucks with supplies is only as strong as that one bridge that has been washed out which severs the roadway links into the area under distress. For me in my unique position as a communications consultant for many of these "first responder" agencies I have heard over the last few years in the course of my work their views of what had happened on the Gulf Coast and how this was the worst of the worst scenario for them to experience as the primary and then the back up plans were all washed away in the storm. There is little that separates Americans from other "real people" in the rest of the world when our advanced systems are rendered inoperable by the much more powerful force called "Mother Nature".
I still recall seeing the scene in New Orleans where the one newspaper vending machine was frozen in time, still displaying the edition of the paper the day just prior to the storm. Since there was no human being who could perform the task of putting in a new paper (because the newspaper's publishing arm had shut down and they instead turned to the web.) and there was no human customer around who wanted to purchase the papers out of this box - the contents of the box remained frozen in time. LOGISTICS regarding the supply and consumption of this item that was for sale out of this steel box came to a halt.
In listening to the challenges with the relief efforts in Myanmar again I heard the term "Logistics" being used by those who are attempting to deliver aid to the people who are desperately in need. Now clearly those who are demanding aid have little appetite for listening to the details about "logistical challenges". For them they are an "army of one". Their own concerns for survival and their family's needs are paramount to them. For an emergency aid agency, however, those who are "logistically challenged" are bound by the facts on the ground that are impeding their delivery of these goods. In this particular case their attempts to distribute goods and emergency services to the people who need it the most is being blocked by a totalitarian government.
In Myanmar the complication is that the totalitarian government seeks to receive the supplies at the ports and distribute it themselves. The government has a woefully inadequate logistical plan in place. There are only 7 helicopters for the entire distressed region - according to a news report that I just saw. Most of the transportation of aid will be by military trucks. The aid agencies who are seeking permission to enter the country are better supplied with small trucks and boats as well as professional training on the subject which could greatly supplement the capabilities of the government. This is worse than a bridge being washed out over the Mississippi River! For this challenge there are pontoon bridges or air drops that can be made. When the GOVERNMENT which is armed with munitions are in the way - there is little that one can do.
In comparing this disaster in Myanmar with the other two recent situations - Hurricane Katrina and the Tsunami it is clear to me at least that the Typhoon in Myanmar and the Tsunami in the same general region are better reference models in regards to how the "rest of the world" lives and the standards that they live within as compared to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina where a highly concentrated demand for emergency services too a few days too long to reach them but once the system of recovery and extended aide was put into action the people were recovered far, far, far more comprehensively than the bamboo residences that the people of Myanmar lived in prior to the storm and there after.