The Humanitarian Supply Management System (SUMA) was developed as a joint effort of Latin American and Caribbean countries, with the technical cooperation of the Pan American Health Organization, and the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization. A significant financial contribution has been also provided by the government of the Netherlands for 8 years and by others: England, United States, Canada, Germany and the European Community Office for Humanitarian Affairs, ECHO. Its principal objective is to improve the management of humanitarian assistance by strengthening national capacities for the effective management of relief supplies, so that these supplies arrive in a timely and effective manner to aid the affected population.
The Logistics Support System (LSS) was created to expand the experience of SUMA in the Americas while looking ahead to building a global interface that serves agencies, NGOs, and donors, as well as countries. For the creation of the LSS, three global meetings took place which were sponsored by WFP, OCHA, WHO and PAHO. At these meetings, more than 50 experts from the UN and NGOs defined the parameters of the tool. For more information http://www.reliefweb.int/lss/
The UN Joint Logistics Center (UNJLC), chaired by OCHA, has been promoted and implemented by WFP to provide an overview on the provision of specific humanitarian supplies worldwide. The UNJLC system is now well-recognized not only by UN agencies, but also by the Red Cross and principal international humanitarian NGOs. The UNJLC has been able to gather data from a wide variety of agencies who previously had not shared this type of information so openly. The Internet-based system has been successfully used in a number of countries, most particularly in the context of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Humanitarian Supply Management System (in Spanish, el Sistema de Manejo de Suministros Humanitarios, or SUMA), supported by a network of professionals at both national and regional levels, has more than 3,000 trained volunteers. Initially these volunteers were from the Americas, but today, they increasingly come from other regions. The SUMA system is designed to operate with information technology which is readily available in low-income countries. Originally it targeted the health sector, but has been expanded during the last decade to integrate all humanitarian relief items. Support from the government of the Netherlands brought about the creation of this system in 1990. The implementation of the SUMA system in the Americas over the last decade has been made possible thanks to support from other agencies in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and the European Union. SUMA provides detailed information on relief items for inventory control. It is also a transparency tool, as it assists the coordinating institution in compiling data from all agencies which are willing to participate as well as to report to the international community on what has physically reached the field reception site. OCHA has endorsed the SUMA system, and it takes part of the OCHA/UNDAC team training.
In the last few years, agencies running the UNJLC and SUMA systems, together with large institutions such as IFRC, UNHCR and WFP who have been implementing newly developed tracking systems designed for their internal use, have gained significant insight into issues related to logistics support. In this context, UN agencies (WHO, WFP, OCHA, UNICEF, UNHCR, and PAHO) have agreed to join forces in order to consolidate the experience gained by both UNJLC and SUMA into a single Logistics Support System (LSS). The system will improve coordination at national or international levels among all interested humanitarian partners, and will develop local capacity as well. LSS is being constructed based on the experience of a large number of institutions, and it aims to facilitate the exchange of information among humanitarian agencies. It will complement agency-specific commodity tracking systems that are increasingly being developed by larger humanitarian entities.
In summary, LSS combines the strengths of these two successful initiatives, both of which have operated in different environments and have served complementary purposes. A joint instrument that is available to all institutions will minimize duplication and improve the response to the actual needs of the affected populations, while also building on the management capacity of institutions.