How does managing information in a disaster help save lives and reduce suffering?
Managing information during a humanitarian emergency is a crucial part of any operation. The humanitarian community recognizes the importance of gathering reliable data on the locations of people in need, what they urgently need, who is best placed to assist them, and the value of this information for effective and timely humanitarian assistance.
A strong information management network that supports emergency coordination requires processes to collect, analyse and share information about the situation among the various organizations involved, and to ensure the coordination system runs efficiently. The network includes people affected by the emergency, as well as relief organizations, governments and media. Often the information is presented in easy-to-use formats, such as maps or tables, to support swift decision-making at all levels.
OCHA offices collect and analyse information to provide an overview of protracted and acute emergencies. OCHA’s information products include maps, graphics, situation reports, humanitarian bulletins and websites. OCHA is the steward of several humanitarian tools and services that help our partners make better-informed decisions and ensure a more predictable approach to preparedness and response. These include ReliefWeb—an award-winning website providing 24-hour coverage of disasters, conflicts and crises for the international aid community.
OCHA’s role is unique, and it differs from the role of other UN agencies or humanitarian actors as it is responsible for consolidating and publishing information across the spectrum of humanitarian response. Local and international actors use this information to make life-saving policy and operational decisions. Recognizing the critical nature of this work, and in light of the rapid advancement of technology, OCHA continues to invest in digitizing its data and information management tools and reports.
A clear information management structure also ensures that all the organizations involved work with the same or complementary information, and that this information is as relevant, accurate and timely as possible. The data collected and analysed is used as a foundation for situation reporting and for crafting public information messages. In addition, properly collected and managed information during the emergency phase can benefit early recovery and disaster preparedness activities later.