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About HELID Collaborating Agencies

About WHO
About PAHO's Disaster Program
UNICEF's Mission
The International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children
The Sphere Project

About WHO

" WHO's ultimate goal is to increase the self-reliance of its member countries. WHO wants them to be more resilient during a crisis, capable of absorbing humanitarian assistance without being overwhelmed by it and then, once the crisis, is over to move towards a recovery that takes full advantage of lessons learnt".
(Gro Harlem. Brundtland: Director General WHO)

WHO applies the public health model to disaster reduction and humanitarian assistance. By action at country, regional and global levels, WHO works to reduce avoidable loss of life, illness and disability due to natural and human-induced disasters, to mitigate the impact of disasters on health and health-related structures and systems, and to ensure that health development does not stop in situations of crisis, but continues through relief and recovery.

Disaster reduction is recognized as a core function of WHO. The Organization updates and disseminates knowledge and develops tools to support national and international agencies working for mitigation, preparedness, response and rehabilitation.

A specific concern of WHO is that public health efforts are coordinated for the best possible outcomes in the long-term, while also helping local partners and systems immediately. The key to this strategy is to facilitate dialogue on the basis of public health concerns and internationally-accepted best public health practices. WHO believes that health data and public health guidelines are the best lubricants for coordination and that this applies also to disaster reduction.

That is why, thanks to the generous support of the UK Department for International Development, WHO has produced this CD-ROM containing a collection of current best public health practices for disaster reduction provided by major actors in the humanitarian field.
The materials included in this CDROM are judged to have a universal technical value.

For more information about how WHO functions, mobilizes, co-ordinates and administers its core resources in emergencies, please visit http://www.who.int/eha/disasters/ or contact crisis@who.int or write to the postal address:

World Health Organization
Health Action in Crises
Avenue Appia 20
1211 Genève 27, Switzerland

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About PAHO's Disaster Program

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is an international public health agency with almost 100 years of experience working to improve health and living standards of the people of the Americas. It enjoys international recognition as part of the United Nations system, serving as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization, and as the health organization of the Inter-American System.

In 1976, PAHO established the Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief Coordination Program in response to the request from the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to create a program to help the health sector develop disaster preparedness, response and mitigation programs.

Since its creation, one of the Program's main objectives has been to support the Region's ministries of health in creating and strengthening the health sector's national programs for disaster reduction. Three principal areas have been strengthened through this support: disaster preparedness; disaster mitigation; and (support in) disaster response.

The Program has also invested in a number of special technical projects such as: Natural Disaster Mitigation in Drinking Water and Sewerage Systems; Humanitarian Supply Management Systems; The Use of Internet for Disasters and Emergencies; and the Regional Disaster Information Center.

One of the cornerstones of PAHO's efforts has been the production and publication of technical information and disaster training material (books, slides, videos), and the dissemination and distribution of this information to all the countries of the Region at the lowest possible cost. The creation of this Virtual Disaster Library is one more step in this long journey.

For more information about PAHO's disaster preparedness, mitigation and response activities, visit
http://www.paho.org/disasters or send an email to disaster@paho.org, or write to the postal address.

Pan American Health Organization
Emergency Preparedness Program
525 23rd Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037, U.S.A.
(202) 775-4578 (Fax)

For more technical information about disaster reduction, we recommend to use the Regional Disaster Information Center (CRID), located en San Jose, Costa Rica. CRID is the main source of information on disasters for and on Latin America and the Caribbean. Now you can consult on-line from the Internet, the DISASTERS bibliographical database with more than 13,000 documents.

Visit http://www.crid.or.cr or send an email to crid@crid.or.cr

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provides protection and assistance to the world's refugees. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, UNHCR was created by the United Nations General Assembly and began work in 1951 aiding more than one million European refugees in the aftermath of World War II.

Its founding mandate defines refugees as those who have fled their countries because of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group and who cannot or do not want to return.

Since its creation, UNHCR has helped around 50 million refugees, earning two Nobel Peace Prizes in the process. But the refugee problem continues to grow, escalating from around two million in the early 1970s to more than 27 million in 1995. In 2000, the number of refugees and others of concern to UNHCR reached more than 22 million worldwide. In addition, there are between 20 and 25 million people who are displaced within their own countries, bringing the worldwide total of uprooted people to nearly 50 million - or one in every 120 people on earth.

The current High Commissioner for Refugees is Ruud Lubbers, a former Dutch prime minister who assumed his post on January 1st, 2001. He was appointed to a three-year term. He is the organization's 9th High Commissioner.The High Commissioner reports annually to the U.N. General Assembly through the Economic and Social Council. The High Commissioner's programs are approved and supervised by UNHCR's Executive Committee, currently composed of 57 member countries.

UNHCR's most important responsibility, known as "international protection", is to ensure respect for refugees' basic human rights, including their ability to seek asylum and to ensure that no one is returned involuntarily to a country where he or she has reason to fear persecution. The organization promotes international refugee agreements, monitors government compliance with international law and provides material assistance such as food, water, shelter and medical care to fleeing civilians.

Closely related to its role in international protection, UNHCR seeks long-term solutions for refugees in three main areas: voluntary repatration to their original homes, integration in countries where they first sought asylum or resettlement in a third country. Though voluntary repatriation is the preferred solution for the bulk of the world's refugees, this is not always possible, and in those cases UNHCR helps people to try to rebuild their lives elsewhere-either in the asylum country or in a third country willing to accept these uprooted persons.

UNHCR has been asked periodically by the U.N. Secretary-General to help civilians internally displaced within their own countries, so-called IDPs. Since the end of the Cold War, the number of ethnic and civil wars around the world increased dramatically as did the number of the internally displaced, to a total of between 20-25 million today. These people have not crossed international frontiers and are not protected by the same international conventions as bona fide refugees, but the plight of the two groups often overlap and UNHCR has participated in more than 30 operations to help the internally displaced since the 1970s including, recently, Timor and Kosovo.

UNHCR's programs are financed by voluntary contributions, mainly from governments, but also from other groups including private citizens and organizations. It receives a limited subsidy-less than two percent of the total-from the United Nations regular budget which is used exclusively for administrative costs.

In 2000, UNHCR's budget was $954.4 million and among the major contributors were the United States $245 million, Japan $100 million and the Netherlands $48 million. The 2001 budget totalled $954 million.

In January 2001, a total of 5,196 staff members were disbursed among 275 offices in 121 countries, 83 percent of them in the field, often in remote and dangerous locations. Among UNHCR's major assistance programs in the first year of the new millennium were projects in South-Eastern Europe, East and Horn of Africa, Africa's Great Lakes and West and Central Africa, and South-West Asia.

For more information, contact:

UNHCR Public Information
PO Box 2500
1211 Geneva 2 - Switzerland
Telephone: (41 22) 739-8502
Fax: (41 22) 739-7315
Email: hqpi00@unhcr.ch

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UNICEF's Mission

UNICEF is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to advocate for the protection of children's rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential.

UNICEF is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and strives to establish children's rights as enduring ethical principles and international standards of behaviour towards children.

UNICEF insists that the survival, protection and development of children are universal development imperatives that are integral to human progress.

UNICEF mobilises political will and material resources to help countries, particularly developing countries, ensure a "first call for children" and to build their capacity to form appropriate policies and deliver services for children and their families.

UNICEF is committed to ensuring special protection for the most disadvantaged children - victims of war, disasters, extreme poverty, all forms of violence and exploitation and those with disabilities.

UNICEF responds in emergencies to protect the rights of children. In co-ordination with United Nations partners and humanitarian agencies, UNICEF makes its unique facilities for rapid response available to its partners to relieve the suffering of children and those who provide their care.

UNICEF is non-partisan and its co-operation is free of discrimination. In everything it does, the most disadvantaged children and the countries in greatest need have priority.

UNICEF aims, through its country programmes, to promote the equal rights of women and girls and to support their full participation in the political, social, and economic development of their communities.

UNICEF works with all its partners towards the attainment of the sustainable human development goals adopted by the world community and the realisation of the vision of peace and social progress enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.


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The International Strategy for Disaster Reduction

The International Strategy for Disaster Reduction was launched by the General Assembly of the United Nations to provide a global framework for action with the objective of reducing human, social, economic and environmental losses due to natural hazards and related technological and environmental phenomena. The ISDR aims at building disaster resilient communities by promoting increased awareness of the importance of disaster reduction as an integral component of sustainable development. In January 2000, through its resolution 54/219, the General Assembly established two mechanisms for the implementation of the ISDR, the Inter-Agency Secretariat and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Disaster Reduction. This was reconfirmed in resolution 56/195 in December 2001. ISDR builds on the learning from IDNDR, the Yokohama Strategy and Plan of Action and the Geneva Mandate of 1999.

The General Assembly also calls upon governments to establish national platforms or focal points for disaster reduction, and to strengthen them where they already exist, with a "multisectoral" and inter-disciplinary approach.

The ISDR promotes four objectives as tools towards reaching disaster reduction for all:

  • Increase public awareness to understand risk, vulnerability and disaster reduction globally
  • Obtain commitment from public authorities to implement disaster reduction policies and actions
  • Stimulate interdisciplinary and "intersectoral" partnerships, including the expansion of risk reduction networks
  • Improve scientific knowledge about disaster reduction

ISDR Secretariat, United Nations
Office at Geneva
Palais des Nations CH 1211 Geneva 10 Switzerland
Tel (4122) 917-2762 Fax (4122) 917-0563

Estrategia Internacional para la Reducción de Desastres
Unidad Regional para América Latina y el Caribe
Apartado postal 3745-1000, San José, Costa Rica
Tel (506) 224-1186/224-6941 Fax (506) 224-7758

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International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Our mission

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is the world's largest humanitarian organization, providing assistance without discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions.

Founded in 1919, the International Federation comprises 178 member Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, a Secretariat in Geneva and more than 60 delegations strategically located to support activities around the world. There are more societies in formation. The Red Crescent is used in place of the Red Cross in many Islamic countries.

The Federation's mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity. Vulnerable people are those who are at greatest risk from situations that threaten their survival, or their capacity to live with an acceptable level of social and economic security and human dignity. Often, these are victims of natural disasters, poverty brought about by socio-economic crises, refugees, and victims of health emergencies.

The Federation carries out relief operations to assist victims of disasters, and combines this with development work to strengthen the capacities of its member National Societies. The Federation's work focuses on four core areas: promoting humanitarian values, disaster response, disaster preparedness, and health and community care.

The unique network of National Societies - which cover almost every country in the world - is the Federation's principal strength. Cooperation between National Societies gives the Federation greater potential to develop capacities and assist those most in need. At a local level, the network enables the Federation to reach individual communities.

The role of the Secretariat in Geneva is to coordinate and mobilize relief assistance for international emergencies, promote cooperation between National Societies and represent these National Societies in the international field.

The role of the field delegations is to assist and advise National Societies with relief operations and development programmes, and encourage regional cooperation.

The Federation, together with National Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross, make up the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

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The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)


The ICRC's mission: is an impartial, neutral and independent organization whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and internal violence and to provide them with assistance. It directs and coordinates the international relief activities conducted by the Movement in situations of conflict. It also endeavours to prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles. Established in 1863, the ICRC is at the origin of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

Contact Information

webmaster.gva@icrc.org for questions on the site or other available information

review.gva@icrc.org to write to the International Review of the Red Cross

press.gva@icrc.org for more press or operational information

helpicrc.gva@icrc.org questions on how to help the ICRC (make a donation or a request)

Postal address :
International Committee of the Red Cross
Public Information Centre
19 avenue de la Paix
CH 1202 Genève

Fax :
++ 41 (22) 733 20 57 ICRC general ;
++ 41 (22) 730 20 82 Public Information Centre

Phone :
++ 41 (22) 734 60 01

Order of ICRC publications, films and photos:

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
Production-Marketing-Distribution Unit
19 avenue de la Paix CH 1202 Geneva

E-mail : webmaster.gva@icrc.org;
Fax : ++ 41 22 730 20 82

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Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children

The Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children works to improve the lives and defend the rights of refugee and internally displaced women, children and adolescents.

  • We advocate for their inclusion and participation in programs of humanitarian assistance and protection.
  • We provide technical expertise and policy advice to donors and organizations that work with refugees and the displaced.
  • We make recommendations to policy makers based on rigorous research and information gathered on fact-finding missions.
  • We join with refugee women, children and adolescents to ensure that their voices are heard from the community level to the highest councils of governments and international organizations.
  • We do this in the conviction that their empowerment is the surest route to the greater well-being of all forcibly displaced people.
  • The Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children is an independent affiliate of the International Rescue Committee. The Commission was founded in 1989.

Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children
122 East 42nd, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10168
tel: 212.551.3088 or 3111
fax: 212.551.3180

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The Sphere Project

Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response

Sphere Project Management Committee:

  • Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response an alliance for voluntary action of: Care International, Caritas Internationalis, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, International Save the Children Alliance, The Lutheran World Federation, Medecins sans Frontieres International, Oxfam International and World Council of Churches
  • InterAction, a coalition of over 150 US-based non-profits working to promote human dignity and development in 165 countries around the world.
  • VOICE, Voluntary Organisations in Co-operation in Emergencies
  • International Committee of the Red Cross
  • International Council of Voluntary Agencies


In July 1997, the Sphere Project was launched by a group of humanitarian agencies. This project sought to develop a set of universal minimum standards in core areas (water supply & sanitation, nutrition, food aid, shelter & site planning and health services) of humanitarian assistance. The aim of the Project is to improve the quality of assistance provided to people affected by disasters, and to enhance the accountability of the humanitarian system in disaster response.

The process

From 1997 - 1998, a far-ranging network of experts for each sector reviewed existing protocols and norms developed by agencies - UN, NGOs and others - throughout the world. The Sphere Project did not set out to write new standards, rather it sought to consolidate and reach agreement on existing ideas. The preliminary edition, which is the first formally printed result of this collaborative effort, therefore reflects the depth of experience, knowledge and practices from an unprecedented number of countries, organisations and individuals.

The handbook

In November 1998, the Sphere Project Management Committee, with the participation of over 700 individuals from over 228 organisations in over 60 countries, completed the preliminary edition of the Sphere Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response. (available at http://www.sphereproject.org)


A rights-based charter, the Humanitarian Charter represents the recognition of the basic right to assistance of persons affected by calamity and conflict based on existing treaties and conventions. The documents underpinning the Humanitarian Charter include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law (the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977), and refugee law. The Minimum Standards describe and define the levels of assistance which are to be provided in fulfilment of that right to humanitarian assistance.


The right to life with dignity
The distinction between combatants and non-combatants
The principle of non-refoulment
International law recognises that those affected by conflict and calamity are entitled to protection and assistance. It defines the legal obligations of states or warring parties to provide such assistance or to allow it to be provided. Humanitarian agencies define their role in relation to these primary roles and responsibilities.

The Minimum Standards

The Minimum Standards specify the minimum acceptable levels to be attained in each area. They provide a description of what people have the right to expect from humanitarian assistance. The intention is to provide a tool to help create the conditions for effective interventions. Though the achievement of the Minimum Standards depends on a range of factors, many of which are beyond the control of humanitarian agencies, agencies adopting the Minimum Standards would thereby commit to attempt consistently to achieve them and be held accountable accordingly.

To contact the The Sphere Project:


Postal Address:
P.O. Box 372 1211 Geneva 19, Switzerland
Tel. +41 22 730 45 01
Fax: +41 22 730 49 05

17, chemin des Crêts
Building B, room 304
Geneva, Switzerland

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