A GRASP metaheuristic for humanitarian aid distribution


Large scale disasters, natural or human-made, have huge consequences on people and infrastructures. After a disaster strikes, the distribution of humanitarian aid to the population affected is one of the main operations to be carried out, and several crucial decisions must be made in a short time. This paper addresses a last-mile distribution problem in disaster relief operations, under insecure and uncertain conditions. A model is presented that takes into account the cost and time of operation, the security and reliability of the routes, and the equity of aid handed out. The output of the model consists of a detailed set of itineraries that can be used to build an implementable distribution plan. Given its high complexity, the resulting problem is solved using a multi-criteria metaheuristic approach. In particular, a constructive algorithm and a GRASP based metaheuristic are developed, which are tested in a case study based on the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

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    For additional details regarding the algorithms proposed in this paper, please contact the authors.


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This research was carried out with financial support from the Government of Spain, grant TIN2012-32482, and from the local Government of Madrid, grant S2013/ICE-2845 (CASI-CAM). We would like to acknowledge the support of the Spanish Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte and the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad within the program of Campus de Excelencia Internacional, that allowed us to use the computation cluster EOLO.

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Correspondence to Gregorio Tirado.

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Ferrer, J.M., Ortuño, M.T. & Tirado, G. A GRASP metaheuristic for humanitarian aid distribution. J Heuristics 22, 55–87 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10732-015-9302-5

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  • Humanitarian logistics
  • Metaheuristic
  • Multi-criteria decision making