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A qualitative study exploring the challenges of humanitarian organisations

Christopher Sandwell (Lancashire Business School, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK)

Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 2042-6747

Article publication date: 21 October 2011




The purpose of this paper is to identify the underlying issues of humanitarian disaster relief logistics in order to provide an understanding of the challenges facing humanitarian organisations in a wider context.


The paper takes a qualitative approach, adopting a two‐dimensional multi‐strategy research design, culminating in a model of theoretical understanding.


The results suggest that operational issues encountered in humanitarian logistics are symptomatic of wider issues affecting humanitarian organisations. In understanding this, challenges were identified that, if overcome, could make for more effective relief missions.

Research limitations/implications

In terms of implications, this paper provides an opportunity for further research, including the testing of the suggested model against an extended sample size which could include senior managers of humanitarian organisations (involved in strategising), and United Nations representative(s).

Practical implications

The research raises an awareness of the characteristics of humanitarian organisations that may well be acting as barriers to greater effectiveness and efficiency.


Rather than maintaining an operational focus throughout, the scope and nature of this study provide an insight into humanitarian organisations that allows for a deeper level of understanding to be gained in terms of their characteristics, which broadens the context against which the ensuing discussions/arguments can prevail. The resultant model provides a catalyst for further research and discussion.



Sandwell, C. (2011), "A qualitative study exploring the challenges of humanitarian organisations", Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 132-150.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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