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The COVID-19 response: considerations for future humanitarian supply chain and logistics management research

Denise D.P. Thompson (Public Management, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, New York, USA)
Renata Anderson (Research and Evaluation, Health In Harmony, Portland, Oregon, USA)

Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 2042-6747

Article publication date: 26 March 2021

Issue publication date: 4 May 2021




The purpose of this paper is three-fold: (1) this editorial viewpoint gives context to the manuscripts included in this special issue on pandemics and epidemics. (2) The viewpoint frames a research agenda for the vital work necessary to understand and make the humanitarian supply chain more resilient. (3) The authors hope that the viewpoint as well as the included papers contribute to the dialogue and facilitate a research program over the short- to medium-term about mass complex disasters, including epidemics and pandemics, and their effects on the humanitarian supply chain and logistics.


The paper examines COVID-19 response by focusing on the USA as a mini case study. It utilizes contemporaneous reporting in USA newspapers between February and July of 2020. Reports made during an incident or event provide some of the most accurate records of that event and point to gaps in our understanding of research in the humanitarian supply chain.


The novel COVID-19 pandemic highlights unanticipated ways that pandemics and epidemics impact HLSCM and display the supply chain's fragility in stark terms. The paper layouts some of the thematic issues that emerged from COVID-19 that could point the way for future research in the field in the short run.

Research limitations/implications

The articles accessed for the paper dated February–July 2020. With the pandemic ongoing, many more thematic areas or more enduring ones might surface that could change the direction of the findings or recommendations. In addition, relying on secondary sources like newspapers for this research largely depends on the quality of the reports. Moreover, newspaper articles are not as scientifically robust as are academic journals as some. The viewpoints could be biased. It is also difficult to verify the best news sources, if they are not known a priori.

Practical implications

Thematic lessons from America's COVID-19 impact set the stage for future research agenda in the humanitarian supply chain and logistics response over the next few years. There will be other pandemics. The question is not if, but when.

Social implications

The COVID-19 pandemic makes it impossible for us to ignore the link between the global supply chain, natural and human-made disasters, including epidemics and pandemics, environmental degradation and deforestation.


The paper's originality lies it being one of the first, if not the first, to deal with this topic within the operations/logistics/supply chain management field. It therefore helps to pave the way for other perspectives and approaches to understand and advance the field of humanitarian logistics and supply chain management.



Thompson, D.D.P. and Anderson, R. (2021), "The COVID-19 response: considerations for future humanitarian supply chain and logistics management research", Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 157-175.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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