Scaling up DRR in humanitarian action

The world is experiencing an unprecedented moment of fragility and uncertainty. Climate-fuelled disasters are more frequent and intense, while the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the interconnected and cascading nature of risk.

According to the Global Humanitarian Overview (GHO) 2023, a record 339 million people require humanitarian assistance and protection in 2023 – a significant increase from 274 million people a year ago, which was already the highest figure in decades. 

The impact of disasters on vulnerable populations threatens to increase humanitarian needs and to reverse progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Opportunities to ensure that humanitarian analysis, planning and action is risk-informed need to be systematically seized as countries affected by crises and protracted conflicts are among those most vulnerable to the impacts of disasters.  

Scaling up disaster risk reduction (DRR) in humanitarian and fragile contexts is critical as it complements emergency response with a focus on reducing exposure and vulnerability. DRR integration also helps to ensure that no one is left behind, as marginalization and social inequalities reinforce vulnerable populations’ exposure to disasters. Increased resilience will ultimately contribute to the wider goal of eradicating global poverty and exclusion. 

“To promote the incorporation of disaster risk management into post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation processes, [it is important to] facilitate the link between relief, rehabilitation and development, [to] use opportunities during the recovery phase to develop capacities that reduce disaster risk in the short, medium and long term.”

Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction

How to integrate DRR in humanitarian action

The integration of disaster risk reduction (DRR) in humanitarian action remains a work in progress as only a few good practices stemming from concrete previous experiences are available and replicable. This page attempts to cover that gap by providing resources and good practices to advance progress. 

Scaling up DRR in humanitarian action involves two aspects: 

Reducing populations’ vulnerability and building resilience to disasters and hazards in humanitarian settings

Under the first aspect, interventions would relate to disaster risk management activities to reduce the suffering and build the capacities of vulnerable populations, making sure that they are resilient to hazards and underlying risk drivers. For instance, this refers to ensuring that risk analysis forms an integral part of planning and ensuring that resilience-building is an integral part of programming at country and local levels.

A man brings food aid packs out of a warehouse in Gambela, Ethiopia

Introducing approaches to risk-inform humanitarian action

The second aspect concerns endeavours that ensure that humanitarian strategies and programmes are sufficiently risk-informed and that humanitarian actors understand the notion of systemic risk and use it to inform their decisions. For example, this includes an analysis of potential multi and cascading hazards and determining how humanitarian situations might evolve and how this will inform planning.

Build your capacity

This training is designed to assist relevant actors in adopting a risk-sensitive approach when preparing Humanitarian Needs Overviews (HNOs) and subsequent Humanitarian Response Plans (HRPs) as part of the Humanitarian Programme Cycle (HPC).

It outlines key steps for analyzing potential hazards and their risk levels, determining how humanitarian situations might evolve over a given period of time, and informing contingency planning, preparedness measures, and early actions ahead of possible developments to reduce risk. It also helps to ensure strategies and programs are sufficiently robust to withstand changes in the operational environment.

Know the key publications

Read the case studies

Afghan men construct a wall

Afghanistan

The Area-Based Approach for Development Emergency Initiatives (ABADEI) Strategy in Afghanistan led by the International Organization for Migration and UN-Habitat, aims to eliminate yearly winterization and flood recovery efforts by enhancing community capacities. Supported by the Special Trust Fund for Afghanistan, it employs an integrated, multi-sectoral approach to protect livelihoods and strengthen community resilience, preventing further displacement and reducing the humanitarian caseload.

Rohingya refugee women wait to collect relief aid at the palongkhali makeshift Camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on October 06, 2017

Bangladesh

The Rohingya refugee response has built on Bangladesh’s Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP) in collaboration with the Red Crescent, UN agencies, local authorities and NGOs to expend the system in camps, including extensive community training to raise awareness and communicate risks and protection measures regarding hazards. Another outcome of this partnership is the development of subdistrict-level forecast products for anticipatory action during the monsoon season. 

A construction worker in Haiti tears down the remains of a building damaged by the 2010 Haiti earthquake

Haiti

The Haiti Humanitarian Response Plan 2021 seeks to decrease the need for humanitarian aid by focusing on community resilience, food self-sufficiency, and implementing national social protection policy. Through projects like improving construction resilience and providing cash transfers to those vulnerable to natural hazards, the plan aims to facilitate the construction or repair of homes and infrastructure using quality materials and techniques (e.g. Shelter sector). 

Horn of Africa

Following the 2012 adoption of the IGAD Drought Disaster Resilience Sustainability Initiative (IDDRSI), IGAD, with OCHA's support, established a resilience investment tracking system. This platform provides decision-makers with valuable insights for effective programming and policy development, and supporting cross-border coordination through a "who-is-doing-what-and-where" (3W) mapping approach within IDDRSI's Priority Intervention Areas.   

Explore additional resources

Items: 90
IDDRR 2023 events in Cox's Bazaar
While humanitarian responses focus mostly on the emergency phase—like addressing lifesaving and immediate needs—addressing the impacts and risks of climate change is increasing in urgency.
InterAction
Cover and source: InterAction
2024
This report underscores the importance of a multisectoral environmental management group established early in the crisis and aims to shed light against uncoordinated efforts that can lead to maladaptation.
InterAction
Cover
2023
The Policy on Emergency Preparedness and Response is the principal document regulating UNHCR’s engagement in emergencies. Compliance with the Policy is mandatory.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

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