Disaster and humanitarian crises: how to response it?

Frederick M. BURKLE, Jr.

Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts and Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, DC.

James J. JAMES
Center for Public Health Preparedness and Disaster Response, American Medical Association, Chicago, Illinois


The response to humanitarian crises and large-scale natural disasters worldwide have shown consistent failures in coordination, intervention and documentation of impact outcomes. The response to the Haitian earthquake of 2010 catalyzed the international community to address these shortcomings and requirements for greater accountability, stringent quality performance oversights, documentation and reporting, and a recognized process leading to professionalization of the humanitarian community. Evidenced-based studies indicate the need to use a cross/multi-disciplinary approach to developing competencies leading to curricula and course development, and eventual certification and registry of providers. This chapter discusses the current processes by which these issues are being addressed.

INTRO – The demand for better coordination and control is heard during and after every major large-scale national disaster and international humanitarian crisis. Recent large-scale disasters, such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the Asian Tsunami that directly impacted twelve Indian Ocean countries, have revealed “unacceptable practices in the delivery of emergency medical humanitarian assistance.” In particular, questions concerning competencies among some of the deployed Foreign Medical Teams (FMTs) have been raised including current guidelines that were found to be “limited in scope” in meeting demands expected of them. These findings have prompted the international community to call for “greater accountability, stringent performance oversight, reporting, and better coordination,” especially in health services. Further post-crisis discussions among international stakeholders led the United Nation’s Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) and their Global Health Cluster Policy and Strategy Group to call for immediate debate and action focusing on unmet needs and concerns. Additionally, the IASC addressed the need for the development of an international register of FMT provider organizations that would include detailed information on the composition of FMTs and the types of services they provide. Separately, the international humanitarian health workforce community has launched a concerted effort to develop a blueprint for professionalizing humanitarian health care assistance and certification of individual health care providers based on disaster-specific professional health- related skills and cross/multidisciplinary humanitarian health core competencies.


CRANMER, Hilarie H.; BIDDINGER, Paul D. Typhoon haiyan and the professionalization of disaster response. New England journal of medicine, 2014.



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