Beneficiary appointment and delivery planning in a conflict setting

Burcu Balcik, Maria Battarra, Melih Çelik, Bashar Khoury, anand subramanian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In this study, we explore the challenges faced by humanitarian organizations engaged in relief efforts for internally displaced individuals during armed conflicts. Based on our semi-structured interviews with three local non-governmental organizations (LNGOs) in Syria, we introduce a new appointment scheduling problem to improve decision making for aid delivery planning in conflict settings. Operating in a highly resource-constrained environment, these LNGOs face complexities that necessitate effective decision support tools to streamline supply delivery at relief facilities, where a large number of registered beneficiaries are served. Our proposed appointment scheduling problem aims to optimize the allocation of delivery times for various supplies, taking into account the urgency of needs and operational limitations. We present a heuristic that addresses the complexities of the proposed scheduling problem in a flexible way. The heuristic can accommodate simple rules derived from LNGOs’ operational policies on the ground, such as imposing a single visit per beneficiary, delivering a single supply type per day, and pre-allocating time slots to conflict groups. We present a case study based on the Latakia district of Syria to assess the performance of our heuristic and the effectiveness of simplified delivery strategies. Our results not only showcase the efficiency of the heuristic, but also provide valuable managerial insights. We find that cross-training of staff is more beneficial when supplies are relatively abundant. Furthermore, the simplified delivery policies are effective in certain conditions contingent upon various factors, including supply scarcity, difficulty of travel, and the level of conflict in the population.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDecision Sciences
Publication statusAcceptance date - 9 Jun 2024

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