The COVID-19 Impact on Humanitarian Operations: Lessons for Future Disrupting Events


Submissions Open: 1st September 2021

Submission Deadline: 22nd December 2021


At the verge of the year 2020, the humankind has faced an inevitable calamity called Corona Virus Disease (COVID-1.0) which was spread around the world (WHO, 2021). It has been experienced that the society plays a responsive role in collaboration with governing authorities and controlling agencies (Haque and Islam, 2018), while managing resources during man-made or natural disaster reliefs. For instance, during first wave of COVID, the Government of India (GoI) had facilitated the least developed countries with vaccines, medical and food assistantship. At the humanitarian level, India received returned help in form of Oxygen concentrators and Ventilators during second wave i.e. COVID-2.0. Sufficient literature is being noticed focusing on humanitarian relief operations (Anparasan and Lejeune, 2017) and supply risk mitigations (Maghsoudi et al. 2018) inccurred due to the disasters. However, the role of volunteers and workforce in relief planning, recovery for pandemic and complex emergency has not explored adequately (Harpring et al. 2021). Furthermore, it is necessary to bring out clarify how the way of managing humanitarian operations services differ during pandemic, man-made, and nature-inspired disasters.

Tariffs that are more liberal enable traders to do establish supply chain hubs across the globe, which needs multi-modal logistics networks (Haren and Simchi-Levi, 2020). Recently, Kebriyaii et al. (2021) have proposed a model to design logistics network for employee management during disaster. The International Humanitarian Organization (IHO) have established multiple regional supply chain hubs to tackle the supplies of necessary items such as food, water, and medicines in disaster affected terrains (Stauffer et al. 2020). Durugbo et al. (2021) have suggested have suggested regional/local strategies to enhance the viability and integrity of humanitarian logistics. In such a scenario where the COVID19 outbreak spreads quickly, the neighboring or non-affected countries or geographies may considered as temporary humanitarian hubs to serve emergency logistics services, medical supplies and food aids. Therefore, the logistical infrastructure development programs are encouraged to combat the impact of such pandemic in future. A multi-objective optimization model is developed vehicle capacities in response to the crisis time development (Ershadi and Shemirni, 2021). Breitbarth et al. (2021) have propsed a capacitated vehicle routing model to protect and serve the vulnerable communities with essential supplies during pandemic. However, the planning and development of Vehicle Rental Programs (VRP) managing multi-modal logistics networks for humanitarian aids during pandemic is still unexplored matter.

Collaborative efforts in form civilians-policemen, health workers, public-private helping hands and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) have also contributed towards food and local supplies, but sophisticated social awareness and training programs would be helpful to encourage societal communities to combat the impact of pandemic. Yagci Sokat and Altay (2021) identified the lack of research on investigation of operational and logistical challenges of serving vulnerable populations through cross-sectoral partnerships. Sometimes, the least developed countries and vulnerable communities need aid of cash along with from medical and food assistance. Donations and charities towards relief organizations is helpful to design Humanitarian supply chains when disasters occur (Guo and Xu, 2021). The role of multiple appealing mediums such as Television, Prints, e-mails, Social Medias, etc. to raise funding for supplying necessary medical instruments, kits, and emergency services is also expected to investigate further. As an emergency response, cash or in-kind aid proved to effective options to protect beneficiaries from market externalities (García Castillo, 2021). To serve the purpose of funding raising policies towards relief operations during pandemic the NGOs and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies are required to be re-framed.

Frederico (2021) discusses the importance of disruptive technologies for enhancing resilience in supply chains and food tracking (Li et al. 2020). Recently, Jebbor et al. (2021) identify the Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based forecasting model for predicting hospital asset consumption under disruptive incidents to improve hospitals' response to disasters/pandemics situations. However, the role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for humanitarian safety at emergency services such as hospital and workplace during pandemics is yet unexplored. Further, the medical workers and emergency service providers are, insisted to work despite of temporarily suspended travelling and migrations. Certainly, technology and data analytics play a vital role here for the people and local commodity movements (Mkansi et al. 2019), but how can this technology could play role for quick, safe, and secure transportation of men and materials to the pandemic affected terrains ensures safe and secure transportation in such pandemic environment is awaited challenge to address.

To cope up with globally impeded logistics movement, the service providers have tried all possible local transportation modes at higher costs because of import-export restrictions (Ivanov, 2020). Further, the humankind left unfulfilled with necessities and medicines due to lockdowns. In addition, the storage and timely delivery of the perishable food is major challenge under such conditions (Shanker et al. 2021). Singh et al. (2020) presented a truck-drone synchronized delivery system to tackle pandemic-based disruptions for fulfilling the need of food grains, medicines, sanitizers, and other essential items. They also found that, the disruptions in the Public Distribution System (PDS) happened because of non-functioning of warehouses due to the dearth of labor and truck drivers in infected regions. The public transportation systems received more reliance to rescue the distribution operations. Therefore, the practitioners are enforced to rethink about regional sourcing strategies and more harmonized humanitarian logistics models those are required to ensure flawless supplies under epidemically controlled travelled geographies (Dasaklis et al. 2012). The training and development programs for safe work maintaining social distancing would also be beneficial.

Therefore, the research questions that need to be address are:

  • Does existing logistical network and infrastructures are enough to aid necessary supplies during pandemic?
  • Logistical infrastructure development programs to combat the impact of COVID19 outbreak
  • How the technology could play role for quick, safe, and secure transportation of man and materials to the epidemically affected terrains?
  • How the way of managing humanitarian operations differ while handling supply chains during pandemic, man-made, and nature-inspired disasters?
  • Does the neighboring or non-affected countries or geographies may considered as temporary humanitarian hubs to serve emergency supplies, medical and food aids?

Target contributors and beneficiaries:

The offered theme invites contributions from the practitioners of diverse disciplines such as manufacturing operations, food and process industry, medical science, pharmaceutical and healthcare, e-retail and information technology. The product category includes perishables, medicines, medical instruments and kits, food and other consumable commodities. The government and NGOs, bureaucrats, CSR policymakers, disaster management personnel and individuals can also share their views and experiences on resolving the humanitarian problems created due to COVID19. The academicians and researchers may explore established operations practices and supply chain models to manage contemporary humanitarian aspects hampered due to pandemic.


The overall objective is to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on humanitarian operations that helps to combat future disrupting supply chain events. Studies highlighting novel models and methodologies that demonstrate how society can get prepared with development programs to supply food and medical supplies plan during pandemic. This special issue may discuss cases and research articles towards workforce readiness, training programs, and distribution of humanitarian aids. The mathematical models demonstrating challenges of vehicle rentals, scheduling, multi-modal logistics and humanitarian supply chains under epidemically controlled geographies and disaster relief operations. The role of government and corporate agencies to form policies towards collaborative hubs development providing eemergency services for such unforeseen pandemic are, expected to explore.

The allied issues that can be addressed but, not limited as listed below:

  • Collaborative humanitarian (civilians-policemen, corona warriors, public-private) models/hubs to assist food and necessary supplies in COVID19 affected terrains
  • Managing vehicle rental programs and multi-modal logistics networks for humanitarian aid during pandemic
  • Humanitarian supply chain hubs under epidemically controlled geographies
  • Response of government agencies towards workforce readiness, development and training programs
  • Humanitarian aspects of medical aid and assistance for least developed countries and vulnerable communities
  • Reframing CSR and NGO’s funding raising policies towards relief operations during pandemic
  • Role of appeals (Television, Prints, e-mails, Social medias, etc.) to raise funding and supply of necessary medical instruments, kits, and emergency services
  • Social awareness and Logistical infrastructure development programs to combat the impact of COVID19 outbreak
  • Sourcing and storage management of perishables, food and other consumable commodities during COVID19
  • Role of ICT for humanitarian safety at workplace during pandemics
  • Comparing the humanitarian operations among pandemic, man-made, and nature-inspired disasters

Research Value:

The research scope revolves around the humanitarian operations with focus of food and medical assistance, social and infrastructural development, and relief programs during pandemic. The paid efforts of government workforce, military, corporates, civilians, and NGOs facilitating the mankind with emergency logistics services and medical instruments such as sanitizers, PPE kits, and ventilators to the mankind is expected to be recorded. The supply chain distribution approaches for the safe and secure fulfilment of daily humanitarian needs such as consumables, groceries, food and non-perishables under such epidemically controlled environment are need to be explored. Further, the awareness, training and development plans for the disaster management and serving authorities to combat the impact of COVID-19 outbreak is missing so far in the literature.

Submissions Information:

Submissions to this journal are made through the ScholarOne submission system. Please visit the author guidelines for the journal here.

Guest Editors

Dr. Bhavin Shah, Indian Institute of Management, Sirmaur, Himachal Pradesh, India ([email protected])

Prof. Guilherme F. Frederico, School of Management, Federal University of Paraná – UFPR, Curitiba, Brazil ([email protected])

Prof. Vikas Kumar, Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, UK
([email protected])

Prof. Jose Garza-Reyes, Centre for Supply Chain Improvement, University of Derby, UK

([email protected])

Dr. Anil Kumar, Guildhall School of Business, London Metropolitan University, London, UK

([email protected])


Anparasan, A. and Lejeune, M. (2017), “Analyzing the response to epidemics: concept of evidence-based Haddon matrix”, Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 266-283.

Breitbarth, E., Groβ, W. and Zienau, A. (2021), “Protecting vulnerable people during pandemics through home delivery of essential supplies: a distribution logistics model”, Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 227-247.

Cozzolino, A., Rossi, S. and Conforti, A. (2012), “Agile and lean principles in the humanitarian supply chain: the case of the United Nations World food programme”, Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 16-33.

Dasaklis, D. K., Pappis, C.K., and Rachaniotis, N.P. (2012), “Epidemics control and logistics operations: A Review”, International Journal of Production Economics, Vol. 139, pp. 393-410.

Durugbo, C.M., Almahamid, S.M., Budalamah, L.H., Al-Jayyousi, O.R. and BendiMerad, B. (2021), “Managing regional logistics in times of crisis: a COVID-19 case study”, Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

García Castillo, J. (2021), “Deciding between cash-based and in-kind distributions during humanitarian emergencies”, Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 272-295.

Guo, H. and Xu, X. (2021), “Exploring the barriers that influence intention to donate and role of the charity shop within the multi-tier supply chain”, Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of print.

Ershadi, M.M. and Shemirani, H.S. (2021), “A multi-objective optimization model for logistic planning in the crisis response phase”, Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

Frederico, G.F. (2021), “Towards a Supply Chain 4.0 on the post-COVID-19 pandemic: a conceptual and strategic discussion for more resilient supply chains”, Rajagiri Management Journal, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

Haren, P, and Simchi-Levi, D. (2020), “How Coronavirus Could Impact the Global Supply Chain by Mid-March”, Harvard Business Review,, Accessed on Feb. 2020.

Harpring, R., Maghsoudi, A., Fikar, C., Piotrowicz, W.D. and Heaslip, G. (2021), “An analysis of compounding factors of epidemics in complex emergencies: a system dynamics approach”, Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 198-226.

Haque, M. and Islam, R. (2018), “Impact of supply chain collaboration and knowledge sharing on organizational outcomes in the pharmaceutical industry of Bangladesh”, Journal of Global Operations and Strategic Sourcing, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 301-320.

 Ivanov, D. (2020), “Predicting the impacts of epidemic outbreaks on global supply chains: A simulation-based analysis on the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2) case”, Transportation Research Part E, 136, pp. 

Jebbor, S., Raddouane, C. and El Afia, A. (2021), “A preliminary study for selecting the appropriate AI-based forecasting model for hospital assets demand under disasters”, Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

Kebriyaii, O., Hamzehei, M. and Khalilzadeh, M. (2021), “A disaster relief commodity supply chain network considering emergency relief volunteers: a case studyJournal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

Kovacs, G., Moshtari, M., Kachali, H. and Polsa, P. (2019), "Research methods in humanitarian logistics", Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 325-331.

Li, Yiren, Kumar, Vikas and Hardman, Paul, (2020), “Managing supply chain visibility: The challenges of the UK food sector”, Journal of Supply Chain Management, Logistics and Procurement, 2(3): 261-275.

Maghsoudi, A.Zailani, S., Ramayah, T. and Pazirandeh, A. (2018), “Coordination of efforts in disaster relief supply chains: the moderating role of resource scarcity and redundancy”,  International Journal of Logistics Research and Applications, Vol. 21 No. 4, pp. 407-430.

Mkansi, Leeuw, S. and Amosun, O. (2019), “Mobile application supported urban-township e-grocery distribution”, International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Vol. 50 No. 1, pp. 26-53.

Shanker, S., Barve A., Muduli, K., Kumar, A., Garza-Reyes, J. A., Joshi, S. (2021), “Enhancing resiliency of perishable product supply chains in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak”, International Journal of Logistics Research & Applications, Forthcomming.

Singh, S., Kumar, R., Panchal, R., and Tiwari, M.K. (2020), “Impact of COVID-19 on logistics systems and disruptions in food supply chain”, International Journal of Production Research, Forthcomming.

Stauffer J.M., Pedraza-Martinez A.J., Yan L., Wassenhove L.N., (2020), “Asset supply networks in humanitarian operations: A combined empirical simulation approach”, Journal of Operations Management, 63(1), 44-58.

WHO, (2021), “World Health Organization report on COVID-19”,, accessed on 24 June 2021.

Yagci Sokat, K. and Altay, N. (2021), “Serving vulnerable populations under the threat of epidemics and pandemics”, Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 176-197.