Section 1: ActionAid’s approach to emergencies

1.2

What is ActionAid’s approach to emergencies?

When a disaster strikes, our aim is to save lives and protect people’s rights.

ActionAid supports people living in poverty who are affected by disasters not only to meet their basic needs (which we recognise as basic rights), but to overcome poverty and injustice by ensuring they can lead the process of their own recovery. We place women and other particularly vulnerable groups at the centre of all our activities.


In our responses, we aim for three core outcomes:

  1. Women and women’s institutions are sufficiently empowered, mobilised and engaged in decision-making processes from local to national levels to lead emergency preparedness, response and recovery efforts.

  2. Communities, partners and local institutions have the skills, knowledge, systems and resources for quality emergency preparedness, response and recovery.

  3. The humanitarian system at local, national and international level is more accountable to affected communities, better co-ordinated and more effective.


ActionAid sees disasters as a result of unequal power relations in society. They are not one-off events, or ‘acts of god’, but are part of a cycle of poverty and exclusion. People living in poverty are often affected by numerous disasters during their lives and without sustainable and long-term recovery and resilience, each time a disaster occurs poverty can be deepened and injustices further ingrained. Therefore, we seek to use every opportunity brought by humanitarian crises to shift power relationships in favour of people living in poverty and exclusion, particularly women.


All of ActionAid’s emergency response work is linked to development, ensuring that:

  1. disasters do not erode development investment and

  2. our development work does not contribute to disasters.


For these reasons, much of what it is included in this handbook goes beyond Strategic Objective 4 – in fact it would be impossible to work effectively in emergency preparedness and response without linking effectively to other Strategic Objectives. Particularly in the sections relating to emergency preparedness (Section 6) and linking to longer term programming (Section 5), there are activities which relate directly to a number of ActionAid’s key change promises – emergencies are everybody’s business!


I am 45 years old and a single woman. My sister died long ago. After her death my sister’s husband eloped with another woman and I took the responsibility of bringing up my sister’s children. I have no ration card in my name and so, after the disaster, I did not receive any aid or relief of any sort from the government.

- Anon, India

I lost everything in the disaster. I approached the village level government officer to get information on compensation, but he refused to give the information and told me to come another day. This repeatedly happened. Finally I went and met the District Secretary and he asked me why I did not come earlier – now it’s too late. This was the reply I got.

- Anon, Sri Lanka