The main factor that has brought humanitarian logistics to the forefront of the disaster relief process is simply the general increase in the number of natural disasters that affect our world. This increase is due to a few different factors. First, global warming is raising the average temperatures of the oceans, which will bring more intense storms in years to come. Next, the overall increase in global population means that more and more people are affected by these storms. Finally, the increased number of people living in low-lying, coastal regions means that a larger percentage of the population will be affected. Focusing more heavily on humanitarian logistics will help mitigate the amount of suffering by the affected populations. For the purposes of this research paper, humanitarian logistics will be defined as the activities of "planning implementing and controlling the efficient, cost-effective flow of and storage of goods and materials as well as related information, from point of origin to point of consumption for the purpose of alleviating the suffering of vulnerable people" (Thomas and Kopczak, 2005 page 4). A relatively large amount of research has been conducted over the past several decades in regards to humanitarian logistics. However, there is a lack of studies that compare the effectiveness of relief responses on a region-by-region basis. In order to understand why these location-driven logistical differences exist, this study compares and contrasts relief responses from both developed and developing countries. The responses were analyzed in terms of government regulations, beginning infrastructure of the country, relative wealth/GDP of the citizens, and the regional culture. The four disasters that were examined are Hurricane Katrina in the United States, Hurricane Mitch in Honduras, the Tohoku Earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan, and the Haitian earthquake. These cases are first analyzed separately, and then are evaluated against each other. Each case had its shortcomings in terms of humanitarian logistics. Overall, it was concluded that the governments are typically more involved in developed countries, infrastructure and culture affects all regions, and beginning relative wealth/GDP affects mostly the developing countries. These effects can be both positive and negative; for example, the government regulations in the United States severely hampered the response to Hurricane Katrina, while in Japan the government involvement saved lives and reduced suffering. The other effects are analyzed in depth throughout this paper. Overall, there has never been and probably will never be a perfect relief response that is able to immediately end suffering, but there are many steps to take. These future implications can take various forms. One option is to reduce competition between aid organizations so that they may pool resources and share modes of transportation to both lower cost and increase efficiency of response. Natural disasters are only going to increase in number and severity, so understanding how to respond to them will be integral in the world community moving forward.
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