“Balancing funds, especially when these are limited, can require making some difficult decisions regarding resource allocation, particularly where charities have to dedicate funds to both immediate emergency response and the long-term support of a humanitarian crisis.”

THE cost-of-living crisis presents a challenge to those tasked with delivering humanitarian support, a leading expert has said.

But Shameet Thakkar insists charities can overcome them and ensure the increasingly complex demands they face on their services are met – a situation which has been brought into sharper focus following the recent tragedies in Morocco and Libya.

Explaining how this can best be achieved, Shameet, the founder of Unimed Procurement Services, said: “Most charities rely on public donations to operate, meaning that thought is given to balancing running and operational costs with those stemming from sourcing the products or services needed to complete a humanitarian relief project.

“Unsurprisingly, recent research has shown that the recent cost-of-living crisis has had a significant impact on UK charities – at least one in four existing donors have reported giving less money to charities as a direct result.

“Balancing funds, especially when these are limited, can require making some difficult decisions regarding resource allocation, particularly where charities have to dedicate funds to both immediate emergency response and the long-term support of a humanitarian crisis.

“Though providing relief with essential supplies and sanitation measures is vital, charities are required to subsequently shift their focus to supporting emergency situations in other ways, implementing recovery and rehabilitation strategies to rebuild communities and help them gain self-sufficiency.

“Monitoring the overall effectiveness of their efforts and whether their impact has been as successful, as predicted during the planning stages, is vital. Again, adopting new technologies such as automated tracking tools and IoT data collection can be instrumental, allowing charitable organisations to continue to improve their approach to humanitarian relief, gain additional expertise, and better tend to the needs of vulnerable populations.

“Charities work hard to not only improve internal processes, but also build a network of partners that includes like-minded organisations, communities and individuals to help further their altruistic objectives, discover innovative solutions to increase resilience and ultimately build a better future for those in need.

Through his role with Unimed, Shameet leads an organisation that partners with charities to supply essential medical commodities.

Explaining the planning that goes into this process, he said:  “There’s a considerable degree of strategic planning that goes into the delivery of humanitarian aid: charities adjust their means and objectives depending on the nature of a crisis and the needs of those affected, and crucially, the resources available.

“Needs assessment is a crucial first step, helping establish exactly what the affected communities require and whether the right quantities of a certain product, or the right services, can be provided.

“Further, resource mobilisation needs to be prompt and efficient when it comes to responding to humanitarian crises: though logistical planning is critical, that is, considering factors such as transportation, storage and personnel coordination, speed is key.

“Direct distribution of resources means setting up distribution units in affected areas – when these are accessible – or working with partners or local communities to reach communities in need with tailored aid. And when multiple organisations become involved in a project, coordination and collaboration must be streamlined to maximise the effectiveness of a mission.”

Collaboration doesn’t come without its challenges. Offering his advice on the best way to navigate the hurdles, he continued:

“Delivering humanitarian aid often involves gaining access to conflict zones, or areas permeated by diseases. Ensuring aid can be provided safely can often slow down the distribution process, which makes logistics one of the most complex elements to manoeuvre. Whether as a result of damaged infrastructure, inaccessible routes or difficulty in accessing remote areas, geographical barriers can significantly hinder the timely distribution of commodities.

“What’s more, obtaining correct and up-to-date information regarding the needs of populations can be a challenge, as is addressing the evolving needs of affected communities, particularly where situations are changing rapidly.

“Coordination with other organisations can also prove to be problematic, especially when each has different operational and logistical needs that need to be complied with. It is for this reason that charities often choose to outsource the procurement and delivery of resources to a single point of contact, reducing the need to liaise with multiple stakeholders, which maximises risks and translates to extra costs.

“Relying on a single partner can help streamline quality assurance processes, and is particularly beneficial for small or medium-sized charities that lack adequate resources, or that mainly depend on volunteers. This can help charities improve their supply chain traceability and transparency with consumers, too: many are concerned about where their money is going when they make a donation, and this is intrinsically linked with charities’ relationships with their external suppliers and how they manage operations.

“And like other organisations, charities are increasingly adopting new technologies to address the challenges they experience on the daily and find new and more effective ways of operating. Having access to automated data collection means having data analytics and insights which can help keep track of donations, identify trends, and better understand the impact of their operations.

“Equally, charities can leverage new technologies to more easily recruit volunteers, gather feedback from communities, and coordinate activities amongst volunteers and partners. Ultimately, new technologies, automation and AI have been proven to help charities make a greater impact, providing access to scalable, cost-effective and – importantly – future-proof solutions.”