The significant advantages offered by the Logistics Support System (LSS/SUMA) in managing humanitarian supplies during an emergency are widely known. However, there is another reality: the distribution of humanitarian aid continues long after the news coverage of the emergency, and use of the system continues for months and even years after the disaster.
This is precisely the case in Pakistan, where a program was set up after the 2005 earthquake by a logistics team from the World Health Organization (WHO), with support from personnel mobilized from the Americas. The system was initially set up in WHO/Ministry of Health warehouses in Islamabad and later at affected sites and distribution centers in Muzaffarabad, Bagh, Rawalakot, Mansehra, and Battagram.
Once users had been trained by the WHO/PAHO team, they became instructors in how to use the program in other locations, bringing together at least 21 organizations that helped manage medicines and made suggestions that led to a new version of the LSS. This new version of the program includes Taspects such as special reports with different deadlines, inventory levels, and reports by sector or storage location, as well as the improvement of lists that make it possible to print data subsets based on the assistance needs that arise.
Daily use of the system also enabled health authorities and the WHO office to have a Pakistani team that reacted quickly and efficiently to the floods in Sindh and Baluchistan (2007); the earthquake in Baluchistan (2008); the displacements (2009), and most recently, the floods that have been hit large areas of Pakistan since August 2010. In the latter case, implementation of the program in eight districts of Punjab has helped detect shortages in medicines and medical supplies and maintain an appropriate logistical chain by providing updated reports on supplies and distribution.
The Pakistani team found the following advantages to using the LSS:
- The system helps classify donations by type, donor, and priority. This makes it possible to evaluate inventory levels and examine neglected categories, and to generate reports from different sites where the distribution and use of assistance are being coordinated.
- The classification of medicines by “therapeutic category” helps experts suggest alternatives to a medicine.
- Better regulation of inventories shows current supplies and those that are lacking. Designation of minimum and maximum control points makes it possible to regulate the demand for supplies during the rehabilitation phases.
- The monitoring and graphic representation of distribution ensures coverage for missing supplies in priority areas.
- Data from previous years helped in the drafting of contingency plans and the relocation of supplies in vulnerable locations.
- It was possible to construct an institutional record by provider, based on purchases and conduct.
- Flexible use of calendars by expiration date and designation of levels ensure that no medicine expires due to lack of review.
Other implementation experiences for the daily use of LSS/SUMA
During the October 2007 crisis in Lebanon, a PAHO/WHO team was called to support the Ministry of Health in receiving supplies during the crisis. Six months later, a project initiated by EMRO/WHO in Cairo permanently implemented the system in the Ministry of Health’s central warehouse, from which medicines were periodically distributed to all health centers in Lebanon, including controlled medicines that were sent to hospitals and health centers.
The LSS also supplements institutional systems by helping to manage categories that cannot be entered directly into the institutions’ accounting systems, serving as a flexible tool for managing supplies and assisting coordination by providing information on supplies and the distribution of supplies to all related agencies.
This was the case for Birmex (Biológicos y Reactivos de México) which not only used the program to manage assistance received for the A(H1N1) emergency, but also to manage the donations and supplies it administers on behalf of organizations like the National Center for Children and Adolescents.
Birmex has also helped with the selection of a large number of vaccines, which have been incorporated into LSS/SUMA in specific facilities and will facilitate management of the information for other users.