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The LSS/SUMA Initiative: More than 20 years after launch

LSS/SUMA has demonstrated its efficiency and effectiveness, becoming a benchmark in humanitarian logistics through its invaluable contributions.

Ensuring logistical support for adequate supplies has proven to be a strategic aspect in handling emergencies, for without the necessary supplies, even with the best response systems and medical facilities to tend to the victims, the response will be neither adequate nor effective. In light of this, since 1992 PAHO/WHO’s Emergency Program promoted LSS/SUMA as a tool for managing supplies and humanitarian assistance.

More than twenty years after it was launched and widesly implemented in and outside the Region, LSS/SUMA has become a proven methodology that can be used as the basis for logistical organization during the preparedness phase and as a tool in response activities. The SUMA humanitarian supply management system was launched in 1992 under the auspices of PAHO/WHO as a joint effort by the Latin American and Caribbean countries. Since then, the system has evolved into LSS/SUMA, an initiative supported by five United Nations agencies (WFP, OCHA, UNICEF, UNHCR, and PAHO/WHO). This tool, deployed through a simple system that can be used by organizations large and small, makes it possible to oversee the entire supply chain when managing humanitarian assistance during emergencies and to properly manage humanitarian assistance on a day-to-day basis. The LSS/SUMA system is based on practical and field experience acquired in dozens of emergencies of all types, natural and complex disasters, and public health crises.

LSS/SUMA is used extensively not only in Latin America and the Caribbean but worldwide—not just for immediate emergency response, but as an ongoing logistics coordination system. In Pakistan, for example, LSS/SUMA is still being used —long after the 2005 earthquake— in the WHO and Ministry of Health warehouses not only in Islamabad, but in remote sites such as Muzafarabat, where users trained by PAHO/WHO have been replicating the system in other nearby localities. The same has happened in places such as Lebanon, Somalia, Gaza, Egypt, Libya, and Indonesia.

The LSS/SUMA system is based on practical and field experience acquired in dozens of emergencies of all types, natural and complex disasters, and public health crises.

In the Region of the Americas, PAHO has worked over the years with a wide array of agencies, ministries of health, emergency management organizations, NGOs, the Red Cross, armed forces, United Nations agencies, etc. These entities have contributed to the organization of humanitarian assistance during emergencies or to the day-to day organization of supplies and logistics, as many of them manage assistance not only during emergencies.

The LSS/SUMA system has been used in every major emergency that has occurred in the Region in the last 20 years. Moreover, every country in the Region has received extensive training in the use of the system, enabling organizations and countries to take ownership of the tool and make it a standard part of their emergency preparedness and response plans. Some countries, such as Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Peru, have even issued official ministerial decrees making it an official tool for managing humanitarian assistance under their emergency response laws.

In the Dominican Republic, the use of the LSS/SUMA system has resulted in the creation of an entire national warehouse system used in cholera response. In Panama, the Ministry of Health uses the system to manage supplies on a daily basis. Similarly, during major emergencies, such as the H1N1 outbreak in Mexico, the system complemented existing systems in the states. The implementation of  LSS/SUMA in the country’s 32 states supported the management of supplies needed for that particular emergency, enabling the authorities to consolidate and share information at the national level.

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