Information Management

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 where people in need are located, 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 system 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 itself runs efficiently. These include the people actually 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.

When an emergency occurs, OCHA’s information management officers immediately start working with key partners to produce standard information products to support coordination of all the humanitarian organizations and the response operation. These include the Who What Where (3W) database, contact lists, meeting schedules and briefing materials. Tools such as the information needs assessment, survey of surveys and mapping/GIS tools are made available to support better relief planning and action.

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.

As important as the work we do on the ground in an emergency are the preparedness and lessons-learned activities OCHA undertakes with key partners, especially through the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Task Force on Information Management.