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We are a small NGO working with a village community when the earthquake struck. We want to distribute plastic sheet but we need advice on how best to procure it.


This is a question that I've been asked in the field so I wanted to share it with everyone on KnowledgePoint

1 Answer


Thank you for your question. Plastic sheeting can be a good temporary shelter material after an earthquake because it is flexible and durable. It is unlikely to hurt anyone if there are aftershocks or extreme weather and it can also be recycled for other purposes following the emergency phase.

Plastic sheeting is useful if buildings have been damaged by the earthquake, but before families can use it to repair their homes they may need to remove debris. Consider technical support and tools to arrange this first. Families will also need other materials to fix the sheeting and make it into a temporary roof or wall, so consider rope, nails and tools for this.

Before you decide what to order, find out if there is an active Shelter Cluster or NFI Cluster for the earthquake response. The Cluster should be able to advise on how to coordinate with other NGOs and the Government concerning specification and procurement of the package of materials to provide. It is important to coordinate with others so that the affected families receive equitable support from the humanitarian community. It is likely the agreed plastic sheet specification will be taken from this guide:

‘Plastic Sheeting: A guide to the specification and use of plastic sheeting in humanitarian relief’

Standard Specifications can be found in section B.2.3, p39. It also contains other useful guidance, such as Logistics and Distribution guidance in section A.3, p15.

If you have access to international procurement and funding for airfreight, you may be able to order the plastic sheet quickly. If you are able to find the right specification locally, ask for samples first so that you can check the quality. In the emergency phase of an earthquake response it is common for both international and national suppliers to be very busy, so check the lead time the supplier advises before placing an order.

If you have distribution capacity, an efficient option is to contact a larger NGO with prepositioned supplies and arrange to distribute some of their stock. This saves you managing the procurement and allows them to distribute more quickly and to more villages.