MaliKenyaSerian Arab RepublicROSAROLACROWCAROMENAROCCAROAPROPROLAC ROWCA ROMENA ROCCA ROAP ROSA ROP Haiti Colombia Côte d'Ivoire NigeroPT Afghanistan Pakistan Myanmar Sri Lanka Indonesia Philippines Zimbabwe DRC CAR Chad Sudan South Sudan Kenya Somalia Ethiopia Yemen Eritrea


OCHA brings together humanitarian actors to ensure a coherent response to emergencies. This coordination improves the effectiveness of humanitarian response by ensuring greater predictability, accountability and partnership.

Effective field coordination is the core of OCHA’s operations. By working with national and international partners, OCHA ensures that humanitarian assistance reaches the right people when they need it most, with fewer gaps and duplications.

At the onset of a crisis, OCHA staff work with the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) and Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) in a country to:

  • Analyse the situation

  • Develop a strategic response plan

  • Secure funding

  • Facilitate access for humanitarian activities

  • Ensure effective response in different sectors

  • Identify gaps in the response effort


Rapid and sustained response to escalating and sudden-onset crises

The L3 crises in CAR, the Philippines and Syria, and the OCHA corporate emergencies in Mali and South Sudan, resulted in additional OCHA staff being deployed to those countries. The staff members were sent for an initial three months to support OCHA teams and HCs in-country.

In the Philippines, a UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team was deployed ahead of the landfall of Super Typhoon Haiyan. This meant that team members were on the ground coordinating assessment and response in some of the worst-affected areas the day after the storm struck. This early deployment was critical, as nearly 1,700 staff from humanitarian organizations were deployed in the days following the typhoon. Fifty-two OCHA surge staff were sent to the Philippines to support the response effort. 

OCHA deployed 324 surge staff to 46 countries in 2013 to increase support for coordination, and to bring technical expertise in humanitarian assessment, information management, financing, reporting, security, civil-military coordination and environmental impact. (See graphic on pages 10 and 11.) 

In 2013, OCHA streamlined its staffing and surge mechanisms, including UNDAC, the Emergency Response Roster and the regular recruitment system, to ensure that the organization was bringing the right staff on board at the right time. The establishment of roaming emergency surge officers and a senior surge pool enabled the deployment of highly qualified and experienced staff within 48 hours of a crisis.


Strengthening effective leaders and leadership teams

The timeliness and effectiveness of emergency response efforts depend on many crucial factors, including the quality of the leadership of the HC and HCT. OCHA has a key role in supporting HCs and HCTs in their leadership responsibilities. This includes:

  • Regular contact with HCs in the field to give them support and track priorities

  • Mentoring 

  • Leadership training

OCHA has continued its effort to ensure that there is a pool of HCs ready to provide flexible and high-calibre leadership in emergencies. By the end of 2013, the HC pool had expanded to include 65 members from 22 organizations. A new “high-potential pool” targets people with the potential to become HCs, but who are not yet ready to take up an HC post. Pool members (currently 14) are offered developmental opportunities to strengthen their leadership capacity.  

In 2013, OCHA undertook a survey of 30 HCTs to better understand their composition[1] and functioning, and to better inform its coordination efforts. As part of this survey, OCHA facilitated team-building and leadership training for HCTs in Liberia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sudan and Yemen. In Myanmar, for example, OCHA assisted the HCT in reviewing its operations and established a humanitarian advocacy and communications group to improve common messaging. 


Coordinating strategic, streamlined and accountable humanitarian action

OCHA and its partners work together to ensure that humanitarian action is based on strong evidence, well-defined strategies and clear priorities. 

As part of an effort that began in 2012, OCHA continued to improve the country-level implementation of the humanitarian programme cycle (HPC), which is a coordinated series of actions to prepare for, deliver and manage humanitarian response efforts. OCHA rolled out two new tools in 2013: the humanitarian needs overviews and the strategic response plans, which improved the CAP and made the HPC more evidence based and strategic.

The humanitarian needs overview is an analysis conducted with partners to build a shared understanding of response priorities. The strategic response plan is developed through joint planning with partners to address the needs and vulnerabilities in a country and promote strategic and systemic thinking in humanitarian response. 

In addition, OCHA supported HCTs to undertake rapid reprioritization exercises when there were significant and sudden changes in the humanitarian situation in a given country. For example:

  • In Mali, OCHA worked with inter-agency partners to develop and launch priority action plans in March and September as the conflict evolved, ensuring that emerging needs were quickly assessed and (re)prioritized.

  • In CAR, a 100-day action plan was developed within two weeks of the 5 December outbreak of violence. During the 100 days, delivery of humanitarian assistance was scaled up in key sectors such as protection, water and sanitation, nutrition, health, non-food items/shelter, logistics, and camp coordination and management in priority locations.

  • In South Sudan, following the outbreak of violence in mid-December 2013, a crisis response plan was developed covering January to June 2014 to meet needs arising from the sharp deterioration in the humanitarian situation. 

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) made a collective effort to reorient the global humanitarian system to better support effective humanitarian action in the field. As part of this effort, the Emergency Directors Group, chaired by OCHA’s Director of Operations, engaged with HCs and HCTs to provide operational support to humanitarian leaders on the ground. This engagement was visible in 26 country-specific Emergency Directors meetings in 2013, during which complex operational issues were analysed and tangible recommendations were provided on crises including those in CAR, Mali, the Philippines and Syria. Emergency Director missions to Syria (January 2013) and CAR (October 2013) supported the scale-up of the L3 responses, while missions to DRC, Pakistan and Afghanistan identified best practices and outlined areas for enhanced headquarters support. The Emergency Directors carried out an annual review of operations on 2 December 2013, which ensured that partners shared a common understanding of progress made and gaps remaining in the IASC’s collective response to major crises worldwide. 


Backing priorities with pooled funds

Over the past 10 years, funding gaps have widened in absolute and percentage terms, with requirements growing from $5.2 billion in 2003 to $12.9 billion in 2013. The number of people who need humanitarian assistance has also doubled. 

In 2013, growing humanitarian needs rapidly outpaced the funding available for response. The initial global humanitarian appeal for 2013 was $8.5 billion to provide assistance to at least 51 million people in 16 countries. By mid-2013, with the humanitarian crisis in Syria escalating, the appeal had grown by more than 50 per cent to $12.9 billion, with 73 million people in need of assistance. As the year closed, a further $677 million was required to assist 14 million people affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan.

The global underfunding of humanitarian action had a devastating impact. In countries such as Somalia and Yemen, fragile gains could not be consolidated, while in some major crises, such as CAR, key sectors including education and health had zero funding for much of the year.

In addition to OCHA’s role in system-wide resource mobilization, there are three pooled-funding mechanisms available to support humanitarian response: the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), country-based Emergency Response Funds (ERFs) and Common Humanitarian Funds (CHFs).

CERF is one of the fastest and most effective ways to support humanitarian aid operations. It is a reserve fund of approximately $500 million that is managed by a secretariat within OCHA and replenished annually by voluntary contributions from UN Member States, private companies, foundations, charities and individuals. CERF provides emergency grants to UN agencies and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to promote early action to reduce loss of life, enhance response to time-critical requirements and strengthen core elements of humanitarian response in underfunded crises. 

In 2013, CERF allocated more than $482 million for humanitarian action worldwide. Contributions to CERF provided the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) with the resources to quickly respond to natural disasters, complex crises and forgotten emergencies around the world. See graphic below.

Immediately following the L3 declaration for Syria in January, CERF allocated $20 million to nine UN agencies to scale up operations in-country. During the year, CERF provided more than $82 million for humanitarian response to the Syria crisis, including $40.4 million to Syria, $17.5 million for Lebanon, $14.8 million for Jordan and $10 million for Iraq. In CAR, the ERC allocated $10 million from CERF prior to the L3 declaration to support critical assistance, including the provision of food, clean water, shelter, health care, and safety and security services. In the Philippines, the ERC released $25 million from CERF within three days of the super typhoon. The ERC also visited the region to raise the profile of the crisis and the need for funding.

CERF provided $307 million in rapid-response funding and $175 million to forgotten emergencies. Sudan, Syria and the Philippines were the top three recipient countries of CERF funding in 2013.

CERF is a global fund, providing grants to humanitarian projects through UN agencies and IOM. ERFs and CHFs are country-specific funds managed by the HC and HCT to provide grants to UN agencies and NGOs. ERFs are smaller funds designed for a rapid, flexible response, while CHFs are much larger and operate in countries where there are prolonged large-scale crises.

  • In Ethiopia, the OCHA-managed pooled fund allocated $27.1 million to 53 projects. The projects provided resources to assist malnourished children and displaced people, vaccination campaigns, emergency water and sanitation projects, and livelihoods-support projects.  They included assistance for the return and reintegration of Ethiopian migrants from Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

  • In Myanmar, the ERF supported projects by local and international NGOs, assisting internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Kachin and Rakhine States.

  • In DRC, the pooled-fund grant-allocation process was streamlined to expedite the allocation and disbursement of funds to implementing partners. As a result of this process, the average time to distribute funds was reduced from six weeks to three weeks, providing faster access to approved funds for UN and NGO partners.


Negotiating access and speaking up for people affected by disasters

In 2013, humanitarian workers around the world continued to face immense challenges in reaching people in need. Delivering the most basic and life-saving assistance proved difficult in many situations and impossible in some. 

An important part of OCHA’s mandate is to negotiate and facilitate access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, especially in complex emergencies.

  • In Syria, OCHA facilitated the movement of inter-agency humanitarian assistance convoys across conflict lines, reaching more than 3 million people in some of the hardest-hit areas in the country with life-saving supplies.

  • In Myanmar, access to non-Government-controlled areas of Kachin State was blocked from January to May 2013. As a result of OCHA negotiations with the Government, access was granted for nine cross-line missions between June and November. These missions provided humanitarian assistance to over 23,000 people.

  • In Chad, OCHA negotiated safe access to crisis areas and mobilized permanent humanitarian field operations in remote locations such as Tissi, where refugees and Chadian returnees arrived in large numbers after fleeing fighting in Sudan and CAR.

  • In South Sudan, OCHA undertook continuous advocacy with civilian authorities, non-state armed actors and the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan for unconditional humanitarian access during the crisis in Jonglei state in mid-2013. This resulted in the signing of formal access agreements with Government and non-state actors. 

OCHA’s country-specific and targeted humanitarian access negotiations are supported by its global advocacy on behalf of marginalized communities and people affected by crisis and conflict. In particular, OCHA is an advocate for vulnerable groups who need protection, to ensure that civilians are not targeted in conflict situations.


Increasing preparedness and building resilience to reduce the impact of disasters

Throughout 2013, OCHA continued to invest in preparedness to respond to crises and help build resilience against their impact. This investment can take the form of training local government staff on preparedness procedures, co-designing response plans, or convening working groups on a national or regional level.

In Somalia, the HCT’s contingency plans meant that humanitarian partners were able to respond rapidly to food security alerts, the tropical storm in Puntland and floods in the Shabelles. Agencies had also pre-positioned humanitarian supplies in strategic locations that they could then quickly deploy to affected areas. 

In Chad, OCHA trained and supported Government officials on preparedness and disaster risk reduction. Officials from six southern regions regularly affected by natural disasters were trained to plan for and manage recurrent floods and epidemics, such as cholera.

In Ethiopia, OCHA worked with Government officials to update regional emergency preparedness and response plans in all eight hazard-prone regions. In each region, OCHA convened and co-led a Disaster Risk Management Technical Working Group, training officials on disaster risk assessment and response methodology.

OCHA provided emergency response preparedness support to the Government in Afghanistan by seconding an Information Management Officer to the Government Disaster Management Authority. OCHA also worked with HCT partners to support the development of national and regional risk registers and profiles and minimum preparedness actions. 

In Pakistan, OCHA led the formulation of the inter-agency 2013 emergency response and preparedness plan, which was closely aligned with the Pakistan National Disaster Management Authority’s preparedness plan. 

OCHA has also supported the humanitarian community in Yemen to focus on building local communities’ resilience. The resilience programme touched on several areas, including rehabilitating infrastructure, restoring basic services, mine action, and livelihood- and agriculture-related activities, such as support for livestock and fisheries. 

Risk awareness was also incorporated into the Yemen programme to increase knowledge of early warning systems and disaster preparedness, and to build emergency response capacity. This strengthened the capacities of governorate authorities and local NGOs, who seek to provide durable solutions for approximately 300,000 people who remain displaced by conflict in the north, as well as the nearly 200,000 formerly displaced people who have returned to Abyan. This will eventually allow humanitarian operations to be scaled down and/or handed over to the Government and development partners.

At a broader systemic level, OCHA continued to work with partners on strengthening the links between humanitarian work and development activities, particularly in early recovery and resilience. As a result, an OCHA-wide resilience action plan was agreed for 2014 and 2015. 

The regional response plan for the Sahel, covering 2014 to 2016, is one example of the successful implementation of that action plan. The Sahel plan calls for humanitarian actors to:

  • Track and analyse risk and vulnerability, integrating findings into humanitarian and development programming.

  • Support vulnerable people to better cope with shocks by responding earlier to warning signals, reduce post-crisis recovery times and build national capacity.

  • Deliver coordinated and integrated life-saving assistance to people affected by emergencies. 

By addressing underlying risks and vulnerabilities inherent in the Sahel region, the action plan was also implementing a recommendation from OCHA’s 2013 policy report Saving Lives Today and Tomorrow: Managing the Risk of Humanitarian Crises. Over 500 humanitarian experts from Governments, the UN, NGOs, academia and the private sector were consulted in producing the report, which identifies actions to anticipate crises and translate early warning into early action. Many of these recommendations will feed directly into ongoing negotiations for the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016.

[1]Currently: UN members (46%), international NGOs (29%), donors (11%), IFRC, ICRC and local Red Cross (6%), international organizations (5%), local NGOs (2%) and other (1%).


Regional Offices


Middle East and Central Asia

Asia and the Pacific

Latin America and the Caribbean




Philippines Surge Response

In the Philippines, Super Typhoon Haiyan made landfall on 8 November. The storm, which was hundreds of kilometres wide, affected a vast area of the central Philippines, including many islands and other isolated communities. Gathering urgently needed information about the type, location and urgency of people’s needs was a massive logistical task. An UNDAC team worked closely with the Government and regional authorities to assess the needs of affected communities and to help formulate the response to the disaster. To help with assessments, OCHA asked the Digital Humanitarian Network to use its volunteer base to search social media and other online platforms for information that people had posted about damage and impact from the storm. Through this partnership, OCHA was able to collect information about needs and offers of assistance via social media. Anyone with an Internet connection could help, and no formal training was required.


What is a Consolidated Appeal Process?

A CAP is the result of a joint planning process that presents a needs analysis, an agreed humanitarian strategy, response plans tailored to each humanitarian “cluster” (e.g. food, water, shelter), financial requirements and monitoring reports on work from the previous year. Each CAP helps inform donor decisions by providing clear evidence for humanitarian needs and funding allocations.


Planning in Afghanistan

In 2013, humanitarian partners in Afghanistan transitioned to a prioritized rather than project-based common humanitarian action plan (CHAP). The CHAP featured innovative tools for prioritizing interventions with a focus on provincial needs and building a vulnerability index. Implementing partners and donors lauded Afghanistan’s 2013 CHAP for moving away from the previous shopping list of projects and instead focusing on a strong, well-prioritized strategy for the response. Funded at 74 per cent of the total appeal, the Afghanistan CHAP was one of the best funded appeals in 2013.


OCHA’s Country-Based Pooled Funds

OCHA manages two types of country-based pooled funds (CBPFs): Emergency Response Funds (ERFs) and Common Humanitarian Funds (CHFs).

On average, ERFs range from $2 million to $50 million, with timely and flexible funding to respond to unforeseen needs. CHFs enable effective responses to large-scale emergencies or prolonged crises.

CHFs can vary between $50 million and $150 million.

With leadership from the HC, strategic engagement by the HCT, and technical engagement by NGOs and clusters, the CBPFs enable the coordinated and transparent delivery of life-saving assistance, with NGOs also receiving funding.



Civil-Military Coordination

Effective cooperation and coordination between military forces and humanitarian actors are vital when both are involved in disaster response. In these situations, OCHA works to ensure a clear distinction of roles and complementarity between their respective efforts.

During the 2013 crises in Mali and CAR, the humanitarian community had to manage a sudden influx of foreign military forces and the resulting impact on humanitarian assistance programmes. The UN humanitarian civil-military coordination (UN-CMCoord) officers who were deployed immediately led and managed the relationships and interactions between humanitarian and military actors on the ground.

These officers used the internationally agreed Guidelines on the Use of Military and Civil Defence Assets (MCDA) to help develop a common approach to coordination with military forces. This approach informed the means of interaction and planning, resulting in a sustained dialogue among all parties. This helped to maintain the civilian character of the humanitarian mission and protect people and humanitarian personnel.

UN-CMCoord also played a crucial role in the Philippines following Super Typhoon Haiyan, where 22 foreign military forces were deployed to assist the Government. UN-CMCoord capacity was effectively established in key locations to ensure liaison between humanitarian and military actors, and to facilitate appropriate and efficient use of MCDA.

These and other responses have benefitted from OCHA’s continued investment in humanitarian civil-military coordination, preparedness and capacity-building work, including policy development, advocacy and a UN-CMCoord training programme.