Introduction: Saving Lives & Protecting Rights

Introduction: Saving Lives & Protecting Rights


Sunil Sharma

This handbook is dedicated to our dear colleague Sunil Sharma of ActionAid India, a passionate, dedicated, optimistic and superbly capable individual who we were all proud to know and work with. Sunil’s commitment to supporting those living in poverty and exclusion, particularly during emergencies as a valued EFAST member, was an inspiration. His presence is greatly missed.

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How to use this Handbook

This handbook aims to act as a practical guide for ActionAid staff across the federation, as well as partners and communities we work with, to improve the speed, quality and efficiency with which we respond to disasters. It aims to do this by facilitating the adoption of the agency’s rights based values, philosophy, tools and approaches in our emergency preparedness and response programming.

Ideally, the handbook should be read in advance of a disaster, but it is also designed so that relevant sections can be used independently as reference guides during a disaster response. For this reason the handbook uses cross-references throughout to avoid repetition in each section.

  • Sections 1 and 2 provide an overview of how ActionAid responds to disasters. Section 1 outlines the key principles that are adopted in ActionAid’s humanitarian programming. Section 2 describes the main processes and structures which guide our emergencies work. These sections can be shared as relevant with external audiences who are broadly interested in our approach.

  • Sections 3 to 5 describe the key actions that need to be taken by different parts of the organisation to respond after a disaster. Section 3 focuses on the first 72 hours, Section 4 on the first month, and Section 5 on six months and beyond.

  • Section 6 deals with preparedness and should be used by any country programme or partner that is prioritizing disaster response in their plans and strategies. For the 2012-2017 strategy period IHART has prioritised 24 countries1 defined as high risk (in terms of likelihood and impact of natural disasters and/or conflict) to receive international level support in developing country and LRP level preparedness plans.

  • Section 7 describes in more detail some of key aspects of emergency programming, including HRBA in emergencies, women’s rights in emergencies, accountability in emergencies, communicating with disaster affected communities and provides sector specific guidance on areas such as food security and livelihoods.

  • The Annexes contain key organizational policies, documents and templates referenced throughout this handbook.

Embedded in ActionAid’s principles are the concepts of learning as an organisation, and committing to improving our practice over time. It is therefore expected that ActionAid humanitarian practitioners will contribute further changes to this manual based on their own practical experience.


1 Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burundi, Cambodia, DRC, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Occupied Palestinian Territory, Pakistan, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Vietnam, Zimbabwe


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How to download the Handbook PDFs

Each section in the EPR Handbook is available as a PDF download in three different formats.

  • Digital PDF can be downloaded and used digitally. These will be ideal to have when internet access is limited.

  • Print PDF (Handbook) are formatted so that they can be printed, folded in half, hole-punched, and added to the printed EPRH Handbook. (Instructions on adding pages to the folder can be found on the inside cover)

  • Print PDF (A4 Sheet) are formatted to be printed as an A4 sheet so that they can be taken into the field without having to add them to the handbook

As it is expected that ActionAid humanitarian practitioners will contribute further changes to this handbook, the content on the site will occasionally be updated.

Notifications on updates to the content will be shown on the homepage. Any updates to the site will be reflected in the PDF downloads. To make sure you have the latest version of any PDF, the date in filename should match the date quoted in the notification, or in the download menu.


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A Message from Biranchi Upadhyaya

International Director of Programmes, on behalf of the Senior Leadership Team, ActionAid International


Biranchi Upadhyaya

We know that a range of factors including climate change, the global economic situation and continuing poor governance are resulting in more intense, more frequent and more complex disasters. As always, it is people living in poverty and exclusion who are the most vulnerable, and bear the brunt of such crises.

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Message from Bijay Kumar

Head of International Humanitarian Action and Resilience Team, ActionAid International


Bijay Kumar

It is my pleasure to introduce this revised edition of the Emergency preparedness and response handbook, produced by ActionAid’s International Humanitarian Action and Resilience Team (IHART).

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