Preparing the Humanitarian Supply Chain for Epidemics and Pandemics Response

Call for papers for: Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management

Preparing the Humanitarian Supply Chain for Epidemics and Pandemics Response

Guest Editors

Denise D.P. Thompson, Ph.D., Associate Professor, John Jay college of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, [email protected]

Renata Anderson, Ph.D., Northern Kentucky University, Department of Management, [email protected]



As epidemics and pandemics (Ebola, Cholera, Yellow fever, H1N1, SARS, and now COVID 19) increase in frequency and intensity, their disruption to everyday life have become even more stark. These events display their life and death effects showing the potential to kill thousands before we have them under control. Bio and viral disaster characteristics are high intensity, low probability, high complexity (multifactor interaction), chaotic (irregular trend), and catastrophic (CDC, 2015). Evidence shows a frequent lack of planning along the pandemic/epidemic humanitarian supply chain, which often results in inefficiencies and ineffectiveness. As an example, the lack of efficacious vaccines and the scrambling to bring one to market; failure to anticipate and pre-plan stocks, lack of test kits, inadequate screening, and testing capabilities; limited communication pathways and information management systems remain concerning. World Health Organization's (WHO) slow, bureaucratic response to Ebola in West Africa helped fuel that global crisis (Page and McKay, 2020), and weak inter-organizational collaboration remains a challenge.
At the same time, our ability to respond is troubling. Nowhere is this more evident than in the humanitarian supply chain. As Tang (2006) found, when significant disruptions occur, many supply chains tend to break down and take a long time to recover. Furthermore, Balcik and Beamon (2008) suggest four key characteristics that add complexity and difficulty in managing the crisis. These are, (1) Unpredictability of occurrence (where, when, what intensity); (2) Emergence of unexpected demand for products and short lead times for supplies; (3) High risks involved with deliveries; and, (4) Shortage of human, physical and financial resources. These not only add to the difficulties of managing the logistics of getting needed resources to those who need them, but they also compound them. The ripple effects from pandemics and epidemics place extraordinary stresses on global and national public health systems and present some unintended effects (e.g., pressure on economy and Internet networks; schools and work) as well.
Yet today there is still a lack of empirical research, theoretical approaches, methods, and techniques on this aspect of the supply chain. The humanitarian supply chain serves as a bridge between disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. However, researchers (e.g., see Yadav and Barve 2015; Chiappetta Jabbour et al., 2017) have found that most pandemic/epidemic humanitarian supply chains are unstable, unpredictable, and slow to respond to the needs of those affected often leading to break down in response. We are experiencing this firsthand now with COVID 19. There is, then, an urgency to reduce these negative consequences on the humanitarian supply chain and logistics management around pandemics and epidemics, if we are to make them more robust for the next one.
This Special Issue seeks to redress some of the gaps in the sub-field. It seeks to provide an in-depth exploration of and dialogue around issues and challenges in responding to pandemics/epidemics from the perspective of the humanitarian supply chain and logistics management. As disaster response organizations and governments begin to "pay closer attention to the supply chain resilience and security, little help can be found in the logistics and supply chain literature" (Hale and Moberg, 2005, p. 196) even today. What is at stake is not merely an academic debate but an issue of life and death.


Proposed topics

We will include 6 articles in this Special Issue. If the number of high-quality papers exceeds this number the publisher is interested in producing a follow-up issue. We welcome research articles, case studies, conceptual papers, literature reviews, and descriptive papers illustrating a particular practice or a solution to an epidemic or pandemic humanitarian supply chain or logistics management problem. Papers using analytical methods or mathematical modeling are most welcome to this Special Issue. Papers are appropriate for any of the following areas:
•    Cross-disciplinary theories, approaches, innovative ideas
•    Governance and Organizational responses
•    Capacity and capabilities – screening, testing. facilities, HR
•    Leadership
•    Agility - unpredictability, turbulent, flexibility
•    Risk and contingency management
•    Cost related issues – e.g., estimation, funding, budgeting
•    Stocks/kits and distribution management - investment in logistics systems and processes; information management; demand forecasting; reducing and managing waste (e.g., demand-led inventory management; advanced planning & prepositioning; sensitive needs assessment mechanism; etc.
•    Quarantine
•    Transportation of people and things
•    Hard-to-reach populations
•    Data and Analytics
•    Resilient design and management of supply chain
•    Technologies and software; mapping
•    Resource-poor and limited resources environments
•    Coordination and bottleneck issues; scaling up or down
•    Communication
•    Leadership
•    Rethinking business, government and inter-governmental strategies for the global supply chain during a pandemic or epidemic
•    The vulnerability of the health and social systems around the world
•    Rethinking teaching methods and content - business schools; policy schools

A proposed schedule:

A 300-500-word abstract is expected by May 15, 2020. Proposed submission deadlines:
•    Paper submission deadline: July 31, 2020
•    First-round reviews done: August 31, 2020
•    Revisions are done: September 30, 2020
•    Final decisions made: October 30, 2020
•    Special issue published online: January 23, 2021

Abstracts should be no more than 500 words. They should provide a summary of the paper and the contribution to the special issue theme of supply chain resilience and logistics management in epidemics and pandemics.
Note: Please follow the journal guidelines for paper and table formatting available on the journal's page.



Balcik, B. and Beamon, B. (2008). Facility location in humanitarian relief. International Journal of Logistics, 11(2): 101–121.
Centers for Disease Control (2014)
Chiappetta Jabbour, C. J., Mauricio, A. L., & Jabbour, A. B. L. D. S. (2017). Critical success factors and green supply chain management proactivity: shedding light on the human aspects of this relationship based on cases from the Brazilian industry. Production Planning & Control, 28(6-8), 671-683.
Hale, T., & Moberg, C. R. (2005). Improving supply chain disaster preparedness. International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Vol. 35 No. 3, 2005 pp. 195-207
Page, J. and McKay, B. (2020 Feb. 12). The World Health Organization Draws Flak for Coronavirus Response Public-health experts question whether the WHO has been too deferential to China in its handling of the new virus. Accessed at
Tang, C. S. (2006). Perspectives in supply chain risk management. International journal of production economics, 103(2), 451-488.