Section 2: How ActionAid responds to emergencies


ActionAid’s emergency response structure

ActionAid’s Policy on the security of communities in emergencies commits the organisation to respond to disasters that affect the communities ActionAid works with. In these situations, whatever the scale of the disaster, an ActionAid response is mandatory, and must take priority over existing programmes.

ActionAid is a federated organisation, with authority and responsibility delegated to global affiliates. This means that the primary responsibility for responding to emergencies lies with the ActionAid member or country programme in the affected country. Member/country programme staff, together with ActionAid partners, will lead and deliver ActionAid’s emergency response.

Other parts of the organisation support the member/country programme in different ways:

International Humanitarian Action & Resilience Team (IHART)

IHART is part of the ActionAid International Secretariat and exists to provide technical and practical support to members/country programmes on emergency preparedness, response and resilience building. IHART’s main functions are:

  • Capacity-building: providing capacity-building for members/ country programmes on emergency preparedness, and supporting the development and implementation of country and LRP level preparedness plans.

  • Supporting response, linking it to resilience building and longer term change processes: in medium-large scale emergencies, IHART will deploy an International Programme Manager/Co-ordinators from the IHART team to support the member/country programme to respond and build resilience. The Head of IHART and other IHART staff will provide support and advice remotely. Additional surge capacity support can be provided through the EFAST and RACE systems.

  • Policy: co-ordinate the policy and influencing work around response, preparedness and resilience building.

  • Co-ordination: during emergencies, IHART acts as the hub for co-ordinating information flow between the affected member/country programme and the wider organisation.

  • Fundraising: during emergencies IHART co-ordinates fundraising efforts across the organisation, acting as the focal point for communication between fundraising affiliates and the affected member/country programme. Outside of emergencies, IHART supports members/country programmes to secure funding for disaster preparedness activities as well as strategic humanitarian policy engagements.

Emergency Fast Action Support Team (EFAST)

ActionAid recognises that during times of emergency it is crucial that we have the right skills available to support responses. The EFAST system facilitates a process in which members of ActionAid staff with skills and experience in emergency response are deployed from their normal positions to support another country programme. A commitment has been made to maintain at least 100 EFAST members on the roster at any given time.

Staff on EFAST who are deployed from the roster work alongside local staff and partners to implement high quality emergency response programmes, ensuring our approach promotes the dignity and participation of affected communities at all times. EFAST members continue to work in their present positions once added to the roster, but are available for either short-term deployments (maximum of four months in a year) at 48 hours’ notice, or for a longer term deployment post-emergency (for up to one year) at a week’s notice. In both cases deployees will return to their regular jobs at the end of the deployment.

Each EFAST member is recruited into one of 19 sectors covering different aspects of emergency response: accountability, communications, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, early recovery and livelihoods, fi nance, food and non-food items (NFIs), fundraising, human resources, IT, logistics, monitoring and evaluation, needs assessment, policy, project management, protection, psychosocial support, shelter and water/ sanitation, women’s rights and RACE (Rapid Action Communications in Emergencies), news and digital focus.

More information on RACE, which is a specialised sub section within the EFAST roster, is included in Section 3: communications in emergencies.

The EFAST roster is managed by IHART, who are responsible for recruitment, capacity-building and supporting EFAST members before, during and after deployment. Specifically, EFAST members undergo a formal recruitment process and, if shortlisted, applicants are invited to basic emergency response training. This training covers core modules relating to emergency response such as needs assessment, women’s rights and accountability. Successful applicants receive a formal confirmation form where they commit their availability for the roster. Line mangers and Country Directors are also required to sign this document, to give their advance approval for deployments. EFAST members then undergo a medical health check-up and mental health resilience briefing to ensure they are fully prepared to travel. EFAST members are also assigned a peer support person for their sector who acts as a mentor to build their capacity both during and between deployments. HR systems for deployments have also been established to ensure appropriate insurance, adequate remuneration and safety and security procedures for deployees.

The EFAST deployment policy can be accessed here

Additional information on EFAST systems can be found on the EFAST Hive page

National EFAST

In addition to the global EFAST roster managed by IHART, members/country programmes are encouraged to develop national EFAST rosters to cover a range of skill sets they have identified as potentially requiring support during emergencies. These are likely to be similar to the global EFAST skill sets, but may be adapted to the specific country context based on likely disaster threats and the capacity gaps of ActionAid staff and partners. The member/country programme is responsible for recruiting and training national EFAST members, ensuring an understanding of ActionAid’s approach to disaster response and familiarity with the member/country programme’s agreed preparedness plan. They are also responsible for covering all costs relating to the recruitment, training and deployment of national EFAST members.

International Secretariat

In the event of a major emergency, all parts of the International Secretariat will provide support to the affected member/country programme. For example:

  • International Fundraising staff will work to secure emergency funding.

  • The International Communications Team (ICT) will work with a designated communications-in-emergencies lead country (usually ActionAid UK) to raise the profile of the emergency globally, and if necessary will deploy RACE members to provide emergency communications support.

  • International HR and Finance will ensure that appropriate processes are in place to facilitate the allocation/delivery of necessary human and financial resources.

  • The staff security function will provide support to members/ country programmes to update risk assessments and security plans, and give security advice for EFAST deployments.