Models for relief routing: Equity, efficiency and efficacy

Michael Huang, Karen Smilowitz*, Burcu Balcik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

257 Scopus citations


In humanitarian relief operations, vehicle routing and supply allocation decisions are critically important. Similar routing and allocation decisions are studied for commercial settings where efficiency, in terms of minimizing cost, is the primary objective. Humanitarian relief is complicated by the presence of multiple objectives beyond minimizing cost. Routing and allocation decisions should result in quick and sufficient distribution of relief supplies, with a focus on equitable service to all aid recipients. However, quantifying such goals can be challenging. In this paper, we define and formulate performance metrics in relief distribution. We focus on efficacy (i.e., the extent to which the goals of quick and sufficient distribution are met) and equity (i.e., the extent to which all recipients receive comparable service). We explore how efficiency, efficacy, and equity influence the structure of vehicle routes and the distribution of resources. We identify trends and routing principles for humanitarian relief based on the analytical properties of the resulting problems and a series of computational tests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2-18
Number of pages17
JournalTransportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Equity
  • Humanitarian relief
  • Supply allocation
  • Vehicle routing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Transportation


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