Humanitarian Supplies Challenge

Promoting innovation in humanitarian action

Globally, humanitarian disasters are increasing in scale, frequency and impact. As demand for humanitarian assistance increases, the need for humanitarian response to be effective, efficient and accountable also increases. The Australian Government is committed to rapid and effective response to humanitarian crises, particularly within the Indo-Pacific Region. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is responsible for leading the Australian Government’s response to international humanitarian crises.

Aid supplies being loaded on to a plane
Australian Aid hygiene and shelter tool kits en route to Vanuatu as part of the Australian Government’s emergency humanitarian relief after Tropical Cyclone Pam, 2015.

A call for innovative solutions to help save lives in emergencies

The Australian Government is also innovating the way we do business and identifying effective ways for the private sector to contribute to humanitarian response. As part of this agenda, DFAT is investing in new and innovative humanitarian emergency relief supplies to help save lives immediately after a crisis.

Through the Humanitarian Supplies Challenge DFAT sought new partnerships with businesses, entrepreneurs, NGOs, social enterprises, academics and other leaders in innovative approaches to humanitarian relief. Together we want to identify new products and innovative solutions that will provide more effective relief to communities in need after disaster strikes.

Warehouse shelves loaded with boxes of aid supplies
Australian Aid emergency humanitarian relief supplies stored at DFAT’s Brisbane warehouse, 2016

The challenges

Currently, DFAT maintains a stockpile of humanitarian relief supplies including: temporary shelter solutions; support for accessing clean water; and portable solutions for energy generation. Additional to this, DFAT has access to the UN Humanitarian Relief Depot's global network of relief supplies. Through the Humanitarian Supplies Challenge, DFAT invited innovative products that can perform better than our existing supplies in these three common challenges faced by those affected by humanitarian disasters in the Pacific.

Icons for water, energy and shelter

1. Providing access to clean water

Following a disaster, access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene is an essential foundation for people's health and quality of life. When normal access to clean water and regular hygiene routines are disrupted in a crisis, inadequate access to safe drinking water, basic sanitation and poor hygiene practices can lead to significant health impacts including the spread of diseases such as cholera, diarrhoeal disease, polio and hepatitis.

When responding to humanitarian crises DFAT prioritises resources that can be deployed to save lives and assist with access to safe, clean drinking water for individuals, families and communities.

Through the Humanitarian Supplies Challenge, DFAT sought new products that can provide low cost, technologically simple, environmentally sensitive solutions for the creation, delivery and storage of potable water at the:

2. Generating off-grid energy

Generating electricity after a disaster is vital for: keeping communication lines open, particularly access to mobile phones; preserving health (including cold storage of food and essential medicines); keeping individuals and families safe and preventing unnecessary environmental impact and detrimental health impacts from using wood fires for cooking and lighting.

In the Pacific, delivering energy solutions to remote and hard to access communities impacted by disaster is a significant challenge.

Through the Humanitarian Supplies Challenge, DFAT sought new technology and regionally appropriate ways to:

3. Safe temporary shelter options

In the Pacific, climate change is making small island states increasingly vulnerable to severe weather events such as cyclones. These large-scale natural disasters can cause catastrophic damage to essential infrastructure such as homes, schools and medical centres.

In the aftermath of natural disasters, the rapid provision of appropriate temporary shelter helps protect the most vulnerable members of communities, including women, children and people with disabilities or special needs when their homes or care facilities are no longer habitable.

The unique context of the Indo- Pacific region including its community structures, climate and remoteness require innovative solutions to temporary shelter that are both culturally and technologically appropriate.

Through the Humanitarian Supplies Challenge, DFAT sought to supplement our existing temporary shelter products with new technology and innovative solutions that are

Examples of products DFAT currently stores to respond to these challenges [PDF 377 KB]

Personnel from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces and Fiji Police Force prepare Australian Aid stores to be distributed in response to Tropical Cyclone Winston in Fiji. Credit: Australian Defence Force.

Last Updated: 16 June 2017

Three women standing in front of boxes of Australian Aid supplies
Australian and Fijian health professionals worked together to treat 1,768 people after Tropical Cyclone Winston, 2016.

Winners announcement

On 16 June, The Minister for Foreign Affairs, The Hon. Julie Bishop announced the 13 winners of the Humanitarian Supplies Challenge.

Through this initiative, the Australian Government will work with the private sector and other organisations to improve the effectiveness of the humanitarian supplies provided to communities in need during a crisis.

These supplies will provide people with access to water, energy and shelter. More information is available in our factsheet.

DFAT will stock these innovative products in our warehouses in Brisbane and Sydney, which contain other humanitarian supplies, such as family kits, dignity kits and shelter kits.

The Humanitarian Supplies Challenge demonstrates the Australian Government’s commitment to improving humanitarian response capabilities to provide the best possible support to neighbours in our region during crises.

The winners were chosen by a panel of experts. There were 77 applications from 12 countries. For more information about the Australian Government’s humanitarian supplies, please email us

Humanitarian Supplies Challenge fact sheet [PDF 659 KB]