Cargo / Transportation

Cargo handling can be an issue in aid quality. If goods are packed inappropriately for the recipients’ needs, the consignment can prove labour intensive for the distributors whose normal programmes may be affected accordingly.

If packaging is insufficient for delicate equipment, valuable goods can arrive damaged or even destroyed. Horror stories abound of medical and electrical goods that needed discarding as a result of poor freight.

Global Hand has developed a freight & logistics checklist, to help address some of these problems. In addition, we are currently researching documentation that will help us develop appropriate standards for Global Hand users.

Feedback? We would be grateful to hear from you if you have:
  • Relevant resources
  • Comments or suggestions or stories
  • Stories of product unwisely/wisely placed.

Please email us at


Global Hand is in the process of gathering resources such as the following.

ACFID: How to package non-cash donations
These are Australian Council for International Development guidelines for packing relief goods. The document suggests that “relief goods must be high quality items that are well-packed in small, manageable containers”. It also says that boxes must be “strong, weatherproof, stackable, well-sealed and easily carried by one person”, and must “weigh no more than 25 kilograms”. The guidelines on labelling packages states that “All packages should be clearly labelled in both English and the host country language and should be addressed to a specific agency which will receive and distribute the goods as per prior agreement.”

Pan American Health Organisation – The DOS and DON’TS of Humanitarian Supplies Management

Preparing and dispatching donated supplies

This section provides detailed guidelines on preparing, dispatching and receiving supplies. This includes suggestions for preparing a packing list and recommendations for packaging goods. Packaging guidelines suggest that donors “make parcels of a weight, size, and form that can be handled by one person (between 25 kg – 50 kg maximum)”, and that they “pack supplies in separate parcels according to their nature (clothes, drugs, food, personal needs, etc.)”.

The guidelines for labelling instruct the donor to “label visibly every parcel with the name, address and telephone of the sender and the consignee, and any other specific characteristics of the cargo: fragile, urgent, need refrigeration, etc.” Suggested documentation includes “information about the consignment (packing list, number of parcels, etc.), the means by which it was sent (type, company, characteristics, person in charge, etc.), its exact destination, arrival point and estimated time of arrival.”

Two other important suggestions are made. Firstly, that donors “inform consignees about the dispatch of every single shipment.” Secondly that donors do not “send any supplies that have not been requested by the disaster-stricken country.”

Receiving supplies
These guidelines suggest that those receiving relief supplies use the “SUMA system”, developed by PAHO/WHO, to help “strengthen the preparedness and management capacity of the organizations who receive relief supplies”. It says that “SUMA helps countries effectively and transparently manage the large-scale influx of humanitarian supplies.” The SUMA software and user manual can be downloaded from SUMA’s website ( or requested from any WHO or PAHO office." The SUMA system outlines effective procedures, such as assigning priorities to goods, and gives a classification system for relief goods.

The Fritz Insitute
The Fritz Institute was created to bring together business best practices and academic research to augment the capabilities of humanitarian organisations engaged in disaster management worldwide. It seeks to mobilise business community partnerships to provide expertise and functional support that will assist disaster relief organisations, and to convene leading academic institutions to research the needs of such organisations. Case studies are available on certain disasters, and the Institute is also involved in designing humanitarian logistics software for the Red Cross.

This site provides detailed information on packing and loading, including instructions for making a wood box, packing for air freight, and some useful and practical guidelines for loading standard 20’ and 40’ ocean containers.

Global Hand Freight & Logistics Checklist
A check list for the freight and logistics process.