Helping people in a crisis is always hard. It’s even harder when those people in need are on the move.
How can they learn about resources available nearby to help them? How can volunteers be assigned to where they can help the most? How can supplies be ordered to meet the demand for meals, blankets and medicine?
The challenge: Finding and helping the homeless and refugees
Finding and communicating accurate information about groups in need is difficult. This applies to both the homeless and refugees. Their need is immediate, and they’re on the move. It’s hard to provide them with help that may be available from multiple non-profits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
For the aid groups, it’s difficult to decide where to place shelters and soup kitchens because the number and location of those in need constantly changes. Making sure there are adequate supplies in different locations and ordering replenishments is a logistical challenge.
Services from different aid organizations are often not integrated, resulting in duplication of effort and wasted resources. The lack of live data leads to inefficient aid delivery. Communication between NGOs, field service groups and refugees is hampered.
Designing the solution
Streamlining information sharing
The Refugee Aid App provides a single point for refugees to find information, connection and support, and a single point for NGOs and charities to share their resources with those in need. The information is location-based and continuously updated.
The web-based, content management and communication system allow charities to deliver critical aid where it is most urgently needed. It serves three functions:
- Find information (where are refugees, where are resources, what organizations provide various types of aid, what resources are in any location): This improves planning and coordination
- Provide information to all stakeholders (refugees and international, national and local offices), governments and donors: This increases efficiency
- Save money: Up-to-the-minute information about what aid is available and where reduces duplication of efforts
The UNHCR, British Red Cross, Caritas and other aid organizations use the Refugee Aid App. More information is available from Trellyz, which is now extending the Refugee Aid app for other social service delivery.
Operating a kitchen for the homeless is a logistical challenge. It’s difficult to predict how many meals need to be prepared and when to order more supplies. Aid organizations that serve populations on the move, such as refugees, also have to cope with the following:
- Tracking inventory levels at field operations
- Limited workers and volunteers available for inventory management and reordering
- Carrying costs for extra stock on hand in order to avoid stock outs
LoadStar Sensors' remote inventory management system, StockVUE, addresses those issues. It automatically "counts" parts placed in bins by measuring the weights of the contents with digital weight scales. The scales are networked using routers that collect data from the scales and upload it to the cloud.
The inventory level in each bin is calculated from the weight sensor data. More supplies are ordered automatically when supply levels in a bin fall below the minimum reorder point. Relief workers can query inventory data through an internet browser and reallocate supplies across different relief centers if needed.
Delivering relief efforts in the field
The humanitarian organization Movement on the Ground identifies unmet needs in a humanitarian crisis. It activates a network of logistical, financial and structural partners to support smaller charities as a crisis unfolds. It introduces innovations in the field of energy and environment to the humanitarian response as a whole. Protecting and contributing to local economies and environments lessens the lasting impact of a crisis and creates an atmosphere of community.
Doing more with less requires both creativity and innovative technology. For those in need, these humanitarian aid innovations make a big difference.
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