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close this bookAn Overview of Disaster Management (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - United Nations Development Programme , 1992, 136 p.)
close this folderChapter 11. UN response to disasters 1
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPrincipal elements and actions in response to a sudden disaster
View the documentSitreps - exchanging information with UNDRO
View the documentAlert message and field sitreps
View the documentThe importance of coordination and information

Principal elements and actions in response to a sudden disaster

The vast majority of international emergency and post-disaster assistance is funded by special contributions to the UN agencies, or is delivered bilaterally or through NGOs. Action by UNDRO, the resident coordinator/representative and the UN-DMT is therefore extremely important: information management and exchange, coordination, preparation of appeals, and the mobilization of resources. The extent to which the resident coordinator/representative and the UN-DMT are involved in these activities, and in the provision of direct operational support to the Government, will depend on the nature and scale of the emergency situation, on the capacity and wishes of the national authorities, and on the resources which can be mobilized.

The above applies in emergency situations which require action by a number of UN organizations/agencies (possibly including UNDP) and, in consequence, coordination by the resident coordinator and UNDRO. In situations which fall entirely within the mandate of one specific organ of the UN system (e.g. an epidemic or crop pest attack), primary responsibility rests with the appropriate agency (e.g. WHO, FAO) although the country-level UN Disaster Management Team may, if required, play a role in support of that agency. (The information dissemination services of UNDRO may also be made available to the agency concerned at the international level.)

The following is a list of the principal actions to be taken by the resident coordinator/representative and the UN-DMT immediately before and during a disaster.

Actions to be taken on receipt of a disaster warning

On receipt of a warning of an imminent disaster threat:

Ö Contact and exchange information with UNDRO: review need for precautionary measures.

Ö Contact the relevant government authorities: confirm readiness of UNDRO and UN-DMT to assist, if needed.

Ö Convene the UN-DMT, review preparedness arrangements, alert personnel and review the UN security plan.

Actions to be taken following the occurrence of a disaster

Immediate action in all cases:

Ö Ensure the security of all UN personnel: activate the security plan, if necessary.

Ö Ensure reliable telecommunications between the field office and Geneva, New York and the affected areas.

Ö Contact and exchange information with UNDRO: send an alert message and then regular field sitreps, and maintain telephone contact, if possible.

Ö Contact the government emergency management authorities: get information, offer UN assistance and reaffirm the capabilities of the various agencies; confirm arrangements for ongoing contacts and collaboration.

Ö Determine whether the Government requires international assistance and wishes UNDRO to launch an international appeal. Consider needs for:

· Search and rescue (SAR), or other specialist assistance
· Relief assistance.

Ö Convene the UN-DMT: review whatever information is available; confirm/define responsibilities within the team; arrange follow-up meetings and information-sharing.

Ö Gather and collate information on the situation; participate in initial reconnaissance visits to the affected areas. Mobilize and provide technical assistance for the assessment process.

If international emergency assistance is required:

1) Immediate needs and action

· Determine, on a provisional basis, the specific functions to be undertaken by the UN at country level in the light of the particular situation and the capacity of the Government.

· Define any needs for SAR teams or other specialist assistance; inform and consult with UNDRO immediately.

· Consult with UNDRO concerning the possible assignment of one or more UNDRO delegates.

· Ensure the convening of an early, broad-based coordination meeting to coordinate immediate responses and arrangements for assessment.

· Institute necessary organizational arrangements and systems within the field office: redeploy staff, define work priorities, and ensure the availability of office equipment and clerical and administrative support to staff engaged in emergency activities.

· Put information systems into operation to record and track needs and contributions of international assistance.

· Consider and, where appropriate, make recommendations for the provision of emergency grants by UNDRO and UNDP, and/or the release of supplies by UNDRO from Pisa.

2) Continuing action during the early days of emergency assistance operations:

· Maintain close contact and exchange information with the Government and other concerned parties (donors, NGOs); participate in and support in-country coordination mechanisms.

· Maintain a dialogue and frequent information exchanges with UNDRO (through field sitreps and by telephone).

· Help to define priority needs for international assistance:

- Participate in the overall assessment

- Make an independent judgement of the priority needs for international emergency assistance

- Help in formulating and screening requests

· Develop a concerted programme of assistance and a consolidated UN appeal including the proposals and requirements of all UN agencies.

· Disseminate information on needs for international assistance to local representatives of donors and NGOs, and help to mobilize resources to cover unmet needs.

· Help to monitor assistance operations, and provide operational assistance, where required.

· Make arrangements for relations with the news media, and the reception and servicing of visiting missions.

· Undertake a review (post mortem) of the UN assistance to the emergency operation as it draws to a close.

If there are political complications or humanitarian needs which are not being met, advise the Secretary-General through the office of Emergency Relief Coordinator. (See Appendix 1.)

Additional support functions (on a continuous basis) depending on the need and the capacity of the Government:

· Convening and providing secretariat services to broad-based coordination meetings.

· Providing operational support to management information systems, logistics, or communications.

Assistance to rehabilitation and reconstruction:

· Help to plan and introduce assistance to rehabilitation and reconstruction in phases from the earliest possible moment.

Assistance to populations in areas of conflict:

At present the UN has little role in active conflict areas for people in need caught in the conflict. This role is mainly left to the ICRC and certain NGOs. (See also Appendix 1).