Introduction: Saving Lives & Protecting Rights


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).

The guidance provided in this handbook is based on ActionAid’s rich experience in actively responding to emergencies around the world since 1999. It is a product of our collective learning over this time, and takes into account our achievements, successes and the challenges we have faced. We recognise, however, that learning is a continual process, and as such are committed to updating and revising content in line with learning from future responses.

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.

It is not intended that the handbook will be read cover to cover, rather that staff will access relevant sections as and when necessary.

It is anticipated that the handbook will be most useful for operational staff and partners at country and LRP level, providing user-friendly guidance to strengthen our ability to prepare for and respond to disasters, all the time linking to our human rights-based approach and ongoing development programmes. The handbook covers core programming and management processes during emergencies, focusing on:

  • Key management processes, and how to make decisions around these.

  • Roles, responsibilities and accountability in emergencies.

  • Programming response – what we deliver and what principles inform the standard and quality of our response.

  • Organisational policies, values and principles relating to emergency response.

  • Tools, templates and checklists to facilitate emergency preparedness and response.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all colleagues who have contributed their invaluable knowledge and expertise to this handbook over the years. It is impossible to name everyone involved so apologies if I miss anyone, but I would like to particularly thank all past and present members of IECT/IHART, and colleagues across the federation including Alistair Alexander, Aloysius James, Andrea Hafliger, Anjali Kwatra, Beatrice Costa, Clare Bickerdike, David Archer, David Twydell, Donna Muwonge, Edmond Kabagambe, Farah Kabir, Geoffrey Okoth, Gift Chatora, Hannah Burrows, Harjeet Singh, Javeria Ayaz Malik, Jemal Ahmed, Jennifer Harrison, Joanna Kerr, Krishnan PV, Leah Berry, Lesbia Morales, Louise Sowden, Marco de Ponte, Marie Ann Fernandez, Natalie Curtis, Paula Feehan, Patricia Cassidy, Philimon Majwa, Rockfeller Mungati, Shashanka Saadi, Sumaila Rahman, Vicky Holden, Yilma Muluken and Zaira Drammis.

I would like to express my particular gratitude to Airlie Taylor, Amar Jyoti Nayak, Catherine Kenyon, Chris Kinyanjui, John Abuya, Khurshid Alam, Lois Appleby, Moira O’Leary, Paras Mani Tamang, Richard Miller, Rosie Oglesby, Ruchi Tripathi and Sonya Ruparel for leading on developing the content.

It is my great privilege to present this handbook to the ActionAid federation. We hope you find this a useful and practical tool to guide your work on emergency preparedness and response throughout the next strategy period. The handbook is intended to be a dynamic document and we welcome your thoughts on how to further strengthen both the content and format, so please do share any comments, queries and/or contributions via email:

Bijay Kumar

Bijay Kumar, Head of International Humanitarian Action and Resilience Team, ActionAid