FAQs About LSS/SUMA

What is the Logistics Support System (LSS/SUMA)?

LSS is an operational system, comprised of software, equipment and trained personnel, that was developed by PAHO to assist disaster-stricken countries in managing donated supplies, from the time pledges are made to the actual distribution of these supplies. It is also a valuable tool for countries committed to transparency and accountability in relief operations.

When can SUMA be useful?

The SUMA system should be activated whenever donated supplies are anticipated, whether from within or from outside an affected country. Any emergency, even those that do not require or request international involvement could benefit from the organization that SUMA provides.

What is the role of the PWRs Office?

The role of the PWR is to remind the national health authorities of the technical and political benefits of the transparent management of information on humanitarian supplies and secure the only deployment of this facility.

What is FUNDESUMA?

FUNDESUMA is an NGO headquartered in Costa Rica. FUNDESUMA assists PAHO in the operational deployment of SUMA. It assumes responsibility for the logistics and operational aspects (material, external expertise, training, etc.) of the SUMA system. Policy contacts with national authorities remain PAHO’s responsibility.

Is SUMA a health sector project?

No, SUMA is a multisectoral project. For practical reasons, it covers all types of supplies (construction material, search and rescue, housing, etc.), not only medical and public health items. For this reason, the ownership of SUMA at the national level should be with the civil defense or national emergency committee.

What do the Red Cross and NGOs have to do with SUMA?

SUMA is a tool for inventory and management of all humanitarian supplies, regardless of their ownership (governments, NGOs, Red Cross, bilateral missions).

The collaboration of all humanitarian organizations is a prerequisite for success. Each recipient agency should/could use the SUMA system to manage its own information systems, gathering/entering its own data to be compiled at the central level in one single database.

Who should have access to this data gathered by SUMA?

Accountability and transparency mean an open policy of sharing data. Ideally, SUMA reports on supplies received and/or distributed should be available to all relief actors and to the public as well.

In practice, the PWR will need to be convincing with national disaster relief authorities and some NGOs or agencies in order to entail their collaboration and participation in what is, basically, a "good governance" project.

It is in the best interest of all parties that, in the near future, information on donations and humanitarian supplies be available online on the World Wide Web. However, there are problems –both political and technological– that will first have to be surmounted.

How does SUMA work?

Information on supplies is collected at different points of entry such as an airport, seaport, or border. The SUMA team assigns a priority to each item based on how it meets the needs of the disaster victims. Items are classified by category, subcategory, and item.

Other SUMA teams work at warehouses and distribution hubs, managing information on the distribution of items from central to peripheral points. Information gathered in the field is forwarded in an electronic format to the central level, where the emergency is being managed. Standard or customized reports can be easily generated for disaster coordinators, assisting them to monitor pledges from donors and identify gaps or duplications.

Who Operates SUMA?

A main objective of the SUMA project has been to develop self-reliance in countries, ensuring that they can manage
humanitarian assistance with their own resources. National SUMA teams are made up of volunteers from the ranks of
national health or relief agencies, the Civil Defense or armed forces, Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Customs Departments, Red Cross, NGOs, and other organizations.

In the immediate aftermath of large-scale disasters, especially in smaller countries, it may be unrealistic to count on local trained health professionals to sort through incoming medical supplies. Other life-saving priorities will prevail! This is the time when assistance among neighbors is brought into play. PAHO/WHO provides logistical and technical support in mobilizing SUMA teams from nearby countries. SUMA teams are self-sufficient and have received specialized training which includes: