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The OCHA Core Team: A new approach to surge in humanitarian crises

08 Oct 2019

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The OCHA Core Team participates in simulation exercises. Credit: OCHA 

Lessons learned from major humanitarian emergencies around the world have shown that the rapid deployment of cohesive cross-functional teams improves OCHA’s delivery in a crisis. As part of efforts to improve the efficiency of rapid response in humanitarian crises, this past week a group of 20 OCHA staff members was put to the test at a weeklong simulation exercise hosted by the Government of Austria.

The staff members form part of the OCHA Core Team, who have trained and worked together to be able to provide support in humanitarian crises. The goal is to ensure predictable leadership and technical expertise, as well as guarantee the consistent delivery of essential coordination.

“They need to be familiar with how they survive in the field and take care of themselves, and how they look after each other,” says Sebastian Rhodes Stampa from OCHA’s Chief Emergency Response Section. “At the higher end they need to understand negotiation, how they work with diverse communities and how to deal with pressure and stress. In a complex emergency environment, they need to understand how to do conflict-sensitive programming, how they can deal with armed forces and non-State actors to negotiate access to get to the people they need to help.”

The first team of 20 people includes experts in coordination, information management and assessments, media relations, civilian-military coordination and logistical support. The training focused on security, team building, management of field operations, making sense of data, building a common operational picture and working with partners.

“I love this kind of work. It is something that I just have to do,” says Core Team member Randa Hassan. “This is why I joined the organization. How can you not join the Core Team?”