Humanitarian Health Action

Manuals and handbooks

This decision-framework document aims to provide and approach for deciding which vaccines, if pre-emptively and properly delivered at the outset of an emergency, would constitute high priority public-health interventions and would reduce avoidable death and disease. It will assist the user to determine thoughtfully, deliberately, ethically and rationally whether or not the delivery of one or more vaccines to specific target populations during the acute phase of an emergency, would result in an overall saving of lives, a reduction in the population burden of disease and in generally more favourable outcomes.

ERF is to clarify WHO’s roles and responsibilities and to provide a common approach for its work in emergencies.


The United Nations, the World Bank and the European Commission have developed a new post-disaster assessment guidance to formulate national recovery frameworks. The project has come up with a recovery plan that goes beyond reconstruction of damaged infrastructure and compensation of financial losses to include a “building back better” approach. WHO chaired the group dedicated to the health sector.

The purpose of this document is to provide health professionals in United Nations agencies, nongovernmental organizations, Red Cross/Red Crescent societies, donor agencies and local authorities with up-to-date technical guidance on communicable disease control in populations affected by severe food shortages. They are intended to support a common strategy consistent with current WHO guidance.

This Guide suggests how the Health Cluster lead agency, coordinator and partners can work together during a humanitarian crisis to achieve the aims of reducing avoidable mortality, morbidity and disability, and restoring the delivery of and equitable access to preventive and curative health care as quickly as possible.

The purpose of the WHO Manual for the Public Health Management of Chemical Incidents is to provide a comprehensive overview of the principles and roles of public health in the management of chemical incidents and emergencies. While this information is provided for each phase of the emergency cycle, including prevention, planning and preparedness, detection and alert, response and recovery, it is recognized that the management of chemical incidents and emergencies require a multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral approach and that the health sector may play an influencing complementary or a leadership role at various stages of the management process.

The target audience includes public health and environmental professionals, as well as any other person involved in the management of chemical incidents.

This handbook provides guidance for WHO Representatives (WR), Country Office staff and consultants in assessing and managing the response to health needs during humanitarian crises. These are key elements of WHO action in relation to Strategic Objective 5: to reduce the health consequences of emergencies, disasters, crises and conflicts, and minimize their social and economic impact.

Open injuries have a potential for serious bacterial wound infections, including gas gangrene and tetanus, and these in turn may lead to long term disabilities, chronic wound or bone infection, and death. Wound infection is particularly of concern when injured patients present late for definitive care, or in disasters where large numbers of injured survivors exceed available trauma care capacity. Appropriate management of injuries is important to reduce the likelihood of wound infections. The following core principles and protocols provide guidance for appropriate prevention and management of infected wounds.

Sexual violence in humanitarian emergencies, such as armed conflict and natural disasters, is a serious, even life-threatening, public health and human rights issue. Growing concern about the scale of the problem has led to increased efforts to learn more about the contexts in which this particular form of violence occurs, its prevalence, risk factors, its links to HIV infection, and also how best to prevent and respond to it.

The purpose of this booklet is to assist WHO staff in the field when an emergency occurs. The booklet provides technical hints on how to carry out a rapid health assessment, how to facilitate coordination, how departments in WHO can assist, etc. Standard formats for reporting and reference indicators are provided.

Strategies and guidelines for building health sector capacity. Many countries have not yet developed Mass Casualty Management Plans, and communities are too often left alone to develop preparedness and response plans without guidance from higher levels. These guidelines are designed to help policy makers, decision makers and emergency managers at all levels, especially at community level, to overcome the gaps in health system preparedness for managing mass casualty incidents.

These guidelines are to assist in the care of children in emergencies. They are designed to serve as a reference manual for the evaluation and management of children in emergencies, and as the basis for the training of healthcare workers. The target audience is first level health workers who provide care to children under the age of 5 years. Physicians and health care workers with more advanced training are referred to the WHO Pocket Book of HospitalCare for Children: Guidelines for the Management of Common Illnesses with Limited Resources (2005).

by ECPAT International -- This manual is about how to protect children from sexual violence and sexual exploitation, specifically in disaster and emergency situations. It is not intended to be an academic report but instead is a practical guide that we hope will be of use to people working directly in the field.

The aim is to provide fundamental information to assist personnel working in emergency situations in responding to protect children, in terms of what can be done before disaster strikes (which might be called ‘mitigation’ efforts), in the immediate aftermath (the ‘response’) and in the longer term reconstruction phase (sometimes called the ‘recovery’). We have also included recommended actions and key considerations to be taken into account in the event of sexual violence or sexual exploitation.

The publication of these guidelines reflects an understanding of the need for the humanitarian system to provide to the people on the front lines of disaster response the guidance they need to ensure the protection of the rights of the people left homeless by natural disasters.

This document provides a guide to WHO country offices in setting the operational framework for humanitarian action after a natural disaster. It is based on material developed for the tsunami disaster in Aceh, Indonesia in 2004/5. This material should be used as a template to develop a situation specific operational document. - Western Pacific Regional Office Version 1.1 - April 2005

The overall goal of this Tool is to assist offices in strengthening partnerships with persons of concern, in gathering baseline data for age, gender, and diversity analysis and in developing the most appropriate protection strategies

Analysing Disrupted Health Sectors

To provide guidance to analysts of troubled health sectors. This includes countries on the verge of an economic, political and/or military catastrophe, protracted crises and situations of transition from disaster to recovery. The intended users are apprentice analysts, already with field experience, familiar with quantitative techniques, attempting to analyse a disrupted health sector.

The purpose of the tool is to encourage IASC in-country teams1 to embark in a process to gradually increase their capacities to respond to the challenge of providing host governments with prompt, effective and concerted country-level support in disaster preparedness and response. This includes an inward view of response preparedness capacities of IASC partners, as well as those of the host government, in order to ascertain priorities and establish preparedness and response mechanisms and systems according to the national legislation, institutional framework and practices.

The purpose of this guidance note is to provide Humanitarian Coordinators (HCs) with a specific, clear and field-oriented tool to facilitate the integration of human rights into humanitarian action, and to outline the role of the HC in this context. It is hoped that the guidance note will also facilitate and encourage agencies to clarify their role vis-à-vis the integration of the human rights agenda into their activities.

This inter-agency handbook focuses on effective malaria control responses to complex emergencies, particularly during the acute phase when reliance on international humanitarian assistance is greatest. It provides policy-makers, planners, field programme managers and medical coordinators with practical guidance on designing and implementing measures to reduce malaria morbidity and mortality.

The purpose of this booklet is to assist WHO and other Public Health workers in the field when an emergency occurs. The booklet provides technical hints on how to carry out a rapid health assessment, how to facilitate coordination, how departments in WHO can assist, etc. Standard formats for reporting and reference indicators are provided.

Surgical care at the District Hospital provides a comprehensive guide to surgical procedures that are commonly performed at the district hospital. It is intentionally limited to emergency and very common problems and is not designed as a major textbook of surgery.

These guidelines have been extracted from the WHO manual Surgical Care at the District Hospital (SCDH), which is a part of the WHO Integrated Management on Emergency and Essential Surgical Care (IMEESC).

The Sphere Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response sets out for the first time what people affected by disasters have a right to expect from humanitarian assistance. The aim of the Project is to improve the quality of assistance provided to people affected by disasters, and to enhance the accountability of the humanitarian system in disaster response.

Oxfam collection of resources on humanitarian issues


The management of supplies, whether from the local market or from an external source, is, in most cases, a complex logistical problem that should not be left to improvised decision making. The acquisition, storage, mobilization, and distribution of supplies to the victims require a minimum framework of organization that permits efficient handling and better use of the resources. This new book provides guidelines to handle this process.

As a practical guide, it points out that countries and organizations should incorporate the topic of logistics into their planning and preparedness for disasters. It also underlines that each step in the supply chain should be seen as a critical and interrelated link in the chain.

A guide to policies, procedures, and planning techniques that can help mitigate the consequences of natural and man-made disasters. Addressed to managers in health administrations, hospitals, public works, and volunteer organizations, the manual draws on abundant evidence that emergency preparedness can help stricken communities limit the consequences of emergencies and overcome them at an early stage.

This volume presents an overview of how countries emerging from years of conflict and disruption of the social fabric have tackled the sometimes thorny issues of rebuilding a health workforce. It presents strengths and pitfalls encountered. It highlights the challenges to newly emerging national authorities to bring together the still functioning elements of the national health system. It discusses the challenges to integrating a multitude of well-intentioned international agencies and contributors to post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation, and restoring population health.

This report presents an assessment and review of environmental health hazard mapping in Africa. It seeks to address four key questions. What is environmental health hazard mapping? What can it offer? Is it feasible in Africa and what are the constraints? What should be done next?

A Joint Statement by the World Health Organization, the World Food Programme, the United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition and the United Nations Children’s Fund

Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies

Opertational Guidance for Emergency Relief Staff and Programme Managers - Developed by the IFE Core Group

A Field Guide


The primary purpose of these guidelines is to enable humanitarian actors and communities to plan, establish and coordinate a set of minimum multi-sectoral responses to protect and improve people’s mental health and psychosocial well-being in the midst of an emergency.

This manual and CD-ROM grew out of a training workshop organized by WHO in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in July 2007, with participants from seven Francophone African countries (members of research ethics committees and researchers). The workshop was prepared with a group of facilitators from Africa, Europe and North America and focused on the discussion of case-studies. Its main objective was to introduce basic ethical concepts useful for the ethics review of research protocols involving human participants.

The Inter-agency Field Manual on Reproductive Health in Humanitarian Settings is the result of a collaborative and consultative process engaging over 100 members from United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations that make up the Inter-agency Working Group (IAWG) on Reproductive Health in Crises. The updated information in this Field Manual is based on normative technical guidance of the World Health Organization. It reflects the good practices documented in crisis settings around the world since the initial field-test version of the Field Manual was released in 1996, followed by the 1999 version.

Humanitarian Policy Group paper - January 2011

The purpose of this document is to provide a standard framework and best current practice for implementation of an Early Warning and Response Network (EWARN) and its operation in the field, following humanitarian emergencies. These guidelines are intended for all individuals responsible for disease surveillance activities at all levels. These individuals include health facility staff, surveillance officers, epidemiologists, data analysts and statisticians, government health officials, sanitarians, managers of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), public health officers, laboratory personnel and community health workers.

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