Humanitarian actions and disaster response

At this point, it is pertinent to explore the distinction, if any exists, between humanitarian actions and disaster response and management.

As you will see from the literature, the terms ‘humanitarian’ and ‘disaster’ response are now often used interchangeably; traditionally, disaster response tends to stem from responses made to ‘natural’ hazards by a range of stakeholder agencies.

In contrast, humanitarian action historically defines actions taken during conflicts by unbiased agencies helping affected people without discrimination. It is a way of operating during the emergency response phase. Disaster management, as mentioned previously, is the integrated approach to assessing, reducing and managing risks from both a community and agency perspective. We now strive to integrate humanitarian action with a holistic approach to disaster management.

In addition to the use of the terms ‘disaster’ and ‘humanitarian’, we might also ponder the use of the second noun in the phrase:

  • Relief
  • Aid
  • Response
  • Assistance
  • Action

Your task

Every discipline has its ‘jargon’, words that have specific meanings in that discipline and you see that here it is no different. It is important to know the ‘language’ in order that we can communicate effectively with each other and avoid misunderstandings.

Consider the terms above. Do they have different meanings and does it matter whether they are paired with ‘disaster’ or ‘humanitarian’?

Do some research and discuss how and when they are used in the sector and the literature?

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This article is from the free online course:

Humanitarian Action, Response and Relief

Coventry University