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close this bookHandbook for Emergencies - Second Edition (UNHCR, 1999, 414 p.)
close this folder5. Initial Assessment, Immediate Response
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentOrganizing the Assessment
View the documentImmediate Response
View the documentProtection and Material Assistance
View the documentKey References
View the documentAnnexes

Immediate Response

17. Gathering information about problems, needs and resources on the one hand, and the establishment of standards on the other, will allow the immediate unmet needs to be determined.

The most urgent actions must be taken with whatever local material and organizational resources are available, even if the information at hand is incomplete.

18. In order to ensure urgent survival needs are met, the most important initial actions are likely to be: i. Ensuring the capacity to act; ii. Protection; iii. Organizational considerations.

Ensure the Capacity to Art

19. The first priority is to provide the organizational capacity required to meet the needs of the emergency.

Enough UNHCR and implementing partner staff of the right calibre and experience must be deployed.

It may be necessary to invoke emergency procedures for the allocation of funds, implementing arrangements, food supply, local purchase, and recruitment of personnel. See Appendix 1 for details of how to access UNHCR emergency response resources. With the government, the resources of other UN organizations, particularly UNICEF and WFP, and of the NGO sector must be mobilized within the framework of a plan for immediate action.



Unless the refugees' right to asylum is assured there can be no assistance programme.

Action must be taken to this end, and to ensure their security and fundamental human rights. The importance of a UNHCR presence where the refugees are located has been stressed. Specific measures may be needed, for example to meet the special protection problems and needs of groups at risk (unaccompanied children, single young girls, minorities, etc.), and to protect the refugees against arbitrary actions of outsiders and against groups within their own number who may pose a threat to their safety.

Organizational Considerations

21. UNHCR must establish a presence where the refugees are, with assured communications with the main office and with Headquarters. The organization of the necessary logistical capacity to deliver the assistance will be of critical importance.

22. The priority, once problems and needs have been assessed, will be to provide vital assistance wherever the refugees are located. There will also, however, be key organizational or planning decisions to take, some of which may determine the future shape of the whole operation. These often include the points summarized below; decisions on them should be seen as a part of the immediate response.

If such decisions go by default or are wrong they will be very difficult to correct later.