Organisations involved in disaster management

Disaster management is a complex process involving international, national and local organisations each with a distinct role to play. To respond to disaster situations a coordinated effort is required.


The United Nations and its organisations

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in collaboration with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) is the arm of the United Nations responsible for bringing together national and international humanitarian providers to ensure a coherent response to emergencies. OCHA also ensures that a framework is in place within which each provider can contribute to the overall response effort. It also advocates for people in need, promotes preparedness and prevention and facilitates sustainable solutions.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) provides early warning of impending food crises, and assesses global food supply problems.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is an intergovernmental agency which helps transfer refugees, internally displaced persons and others in need of internal or international migration services.

The Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) provides assistance and advice to governments and other actors on human rights issues, sets standards and monitors rights violations.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) assists disaster-prone countries in contingency planning and with disaster mitigation, prevention and preparedness measures.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) provides international protection and assistance for refugees, stateless persons and internally displaced persons, particularly in conflict-related emergencies.

The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) works to uphold children’s rights, survival, development and protection by intervening in health, education, water, sanitation, hygiene and protection.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is the principle supplier of relief food aid.

The World Health Organization (WHO) provides global public health leadership by setting standards, monitoring health trends, and providing direction on emergency health issues. WHO’s role is to reduce avoidable loss of life and the burden of disease and disability. A range of technical guidelines for health action in crises and pre-deployment training courses are available. A set of technical hazard sheets on earthquakes, drought, floods and landslides, is also available.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is the world’s largest humanitarian organization made up of 186 member Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The International Federation’s mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity.

The IFRC coordinates and directs international assistance to victims of natural and technological disasters, to refugees and in health emergencies. It combines its relief activities with development work to strengthen the capacities of National Societies and through them the capacity of individual people. The IFRC acts as the official representative of its member societies in the international field. It promotes cooperation between National Societies, and works to strengthen their capacity to carry out effective disaster preparedness, health and social programmes.

The International Committee of the Red Cross

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is a Swiss-based humanitarian organisation and founding member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement(1863). It is mandated by the international community to be the guardian and promoter of international humanitarian law, working around the world to provide assistance to people affected by violence.

The ICRC provides physical rehabilitation to people injured by explosive weapons or other types of incident. ICRC organises, in collaboration with WHO, the Health Emergencies in Large Populations (HELP) course to upgrade professionalism in humanitarian assistance programmes.

The ICRC runs programmes to support the development of physical therapy education and welcomes the involvement of individuals or physical therapy institutions in supporting these developments. Opportunities are added to the working and studying abroad page of our website

The ICRC publication Health care in danger: the responsibilities of health-care personnel working in armed conflicts and other emergencies provides guidance, in simple language, on rights and responsibilities in conflict and other situations of violence for health personnel.

International non-governmental agencies

Leading international non-governmental agencies work through volunteers to fight poverty in developing countries. Their strong role in development works side by side with the recovery from a disaster and prevention and preparedness for any future disasters.

CARE is a humanitarian organisation fighting global poverty. Women are at the heart of CARE's community-based efforts to improve basic education, prevent the spread of HIV, increase access to clean water and sanitation, expand economic opportunity and protect natural resources. CARE also delivers emergency aid to survivors of war and natural disasters, and helps people rebuild their lives. CARE works alongside poor women because, equipped with the proper resources, women have the power to help whole families and entire communities escape poverty.

Handicap International works in partnership with local organisations and government institutions. It raises awareness of both governments and the general public on disability and landmine issues, mobilises civil society and implements action in emergency situations.

Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO) is a network of health care professionals, organisations, corporations and donors united in a common commitment to improving global health through education. The website includes a volunteer toolkit and an informative newsletter Volunteer Connection.

IMA World Health is an inter-church not-for-profit organisation based in the United States of America, which partners with USAID, the World Bank and many other organisations to build sustainable health care systems.

International Rescue Committee (IRC) offers lifesaving care and life-changing assistance to refugees forced to flee from war or disaster and provides emergency response by experienced personnel for short-term assignments.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provides medical services in emergency situations. It recruits some physical therapists and other health professionals as well as physicians.

Oxfam is an international confederation of 14 organisations working together and with partners and allies around the world to bring about lasting change. Oxfam works directly with communities and seeks to influence the powerful to ensure that poor people can improve their lives and livelihoods and have a say in decisions that affect them.

Rehabilitation International (RI) is a global network of expert professionals who work to empower people with disabilities and provide sustainable solutions for a more inclusive and accessible society. It advocates for inclusion of people with disabilities in climate change and disaster management planning.

National organisations

Most nations have a national disaster management plan. National disaster management plans are aligned to the most commonly experienced disasters in that country or region and the resources available. Look at the disaster management plan for your country and region. Links to the national disaster management plan for Australia and India are provided here as examples.

Government funded aid programmes coordinate national responses to disasters in another country. They may also run development projects that support countries in the recovery following a disaster.

Here are some examples of national aid programmes:

Country Agency
Australia AusAID
Canada CIDA
European Union EuropeAid
Ireland Irish Aid
Netherlands Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs
New Zealand NZAID
Norway NORAD
Sweden SIDA
United Kingdom DFID
United States of America USAID