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.

In addition, the two-pager guidance on how to apply the Checklist on Scaling Up Disaster Risk Reduction in Humanitarian Action offers comprehensive direction for humanitarian, development, and peace actors. It outlines key steps for effectively applying this tool to reduce risks and integrate risk reduction into global and national planning and programming.

Know the key publications

Read the case studies

Two people standing in front of a collapsed building after the Haiti earthquake in 2010.

Haiti

After the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in August 2021, the Haitian government requested support for the development of a post-disaster needs assessment (PNDA), led by the International Labour Organization with guiding principles for sector-level analysis and recovery strategy discussions.  Recommendations focused on community participation, harm avoidance in unstable environments, long-term conflict-sensitive approaches, and nature-based solutions for sustainable jobs. Additionally, a conflict sensitivity module was added to the PDNA Training for the Employment and Livelihoods Sector. 

Waste laying on the streets in Nigeria. Yellow tricycles pass the waste along the road.

Nigeria

OCHA's Information Management Unit created a risk analysis data tool in the "KoBo Toolbox" for the Humanitarian Needs Overview. This tool analyzes risks, determines the likely evolution of the humanitarian situation, and informs response analysis in the Humanitarian Response Plan. Mapping risk severity and timelines helps in understanding seasonal effects and supports risk-informed planning. Access constraints mapping aids analysis beyond the observed range, classifying the residual severity level of assessed areas. 

Women carrying water in Somalia.

Somalia

The Somalia Anticipatory Action framework is a “living document”, updated in real-time based on emerging lessons. Collaborating with the Centre for Disaster Protection, OCHA incorporates an evaluative learning component throughout the pilot's stages. Successful pilots prevented displacement by ensuring timely water infrastructure availability and continuous monitoring, allowing a proactive response two months before expected drought displacement, while also contributing to long-term resilience. 

Group of children eating rice from a big shared bowl

South Sudan

To prevent and address widespread food and nutrition insecurity, UNICEF collaborated with UN agencies to run joint multisectoral nutrition programs in in high-risk areas. This includes initiatives such as the Integrated Rapid Response Mechanism (IRRM) to provide nutrition services and supplies, training of community health and nutrition workers, and provision of infant and young child feeding counseling and therapeutic food at outpatient therapeutic program centers. 

Explore additional resources

Items: 91
Cover
2024
The guidance outlines key steps for applying the Checklist on Scaling Up DRR in Humanitarian Action effectively, enabling actors to bolster risk reduction efforts, enhance response capabilities, and foster resilience in humanitarian contexts.
United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
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

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