An agent-based modeling approach to assess coordination among humanitarian relief providers



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Kansas State University


Coordination between humanitarian organizations is critical during the response effort to a disaster, as coordinating aid improves efficiency, reduces duplication of efforts, and ultimately leads to better outcomes for beneficiaries. One particular challenge arises when temporary facilities must be established post-disaster due to the destruction of buildings. For example, the 2015 Nepal earthquakes created a need for the placement of over 4,000 temporary learning facilities after several school buildings were damaged or destroyed. It is important that humanitarians coordinate well to fill these needs efficiently and effectively, while maintaining equity among beneficiaries in the affected areas. This means ensuring that enough facilities are provided in a timely manner, and are distributed fairly to all in need. The goals of this thesis are to study coordination strategies focusing primarily on the placement of temporary educational facilities for children following a disaster. This research also aims to gather useful data by surveying active humanitarians in order to better understand their decisions made in the field. This work uses the results of this survey, along with publicly available data published after the 2015 Nepal earthquakes to create an agent-based simulation model, and uses the Nepal case study to demonstrate the efficacy of the model framework. This research finds that organizations' initial location of operation can greatly impact the number of facilities they are collectively able to establish, the geographic disparity across the region, and the organizations' utilization. Specifically, while focusing efforts on the districts with the most need is most efficient and effective, a more uniform approach yields a more equitable response. This work also finds that there can be a trade-off between overall effectiveness and the number of partnerships established in the field. These findings show a need for further study into the intricacies of coordination between humanitarian workers. This author advocates for the use of information sharing mechanisms among practitioners, as well as further utilization of agent-based modeling as a means of studying the complex nature of disaster response. Specifically there is a need to further study educational needs as a logistical problem, and strategies for solving the post-disaster facility location problem.



Humanitarian Logistics, Agent-based simulation, Equity, Coordination, Nepal earthquakes, Facility location problem

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Master of Science


Department of Industrial & Manufacturing Systems Engineering

Major Professor

Jessica L. Heier Stamm