Kalamaoo County

Health and Community Services Department


Advice for Relief Workers

General Principles

  • Migration and displacement make people very vulnerable to health problems including nutritional, infection and psychological difficulties.
  • Poor water supplies and sanitation make fecal-oral diseases very likely.
  • Poor accommodation and drainage encourages diseases such as malaria.
  • Children's are especially vulnerable to malnutrition when food is in short supply.
  • Often these groups end up moving from one site to another.
  • Emergency care workers must anticipate being called on urgently and keep up to date with vaccinations.
  • Confirm in advance that workers can tolerate anti-malaria drugs that may be required.
  • Volunteers may wish to have personal belongings and equipment prepared in advance
  • Relief efforts must be carefully planned. 'Good will' without planning can be counterproductive.
Response to sudden population movements
  • Security is paramount. Have a clear security policy. The death of an aid worker can halt the whole aid effort.
  • Priorities are: blankets/shelter, water, food (including fuel and cooking utensils), sanitation, measles vaccination and vitamin A distribution.
  • Start with a rapid needs and capacity assessment.
  • Include a careful assessment of the likely adverse impacts of aid (e.g. fuelling conflict, putting local farmers out of business).
  • Work with and through local structures where possible (capacity building). Build up a local team. Understand existing development initiatives in the area and national health strategies and work with, rather than against these.
  • Aim for sustainability when feasible. Have a thinking approach to the situation.
  • Target women and children, as they die first.
  • Establish surveillance early on.
  • Primary health care is usually more effective than interventions at secondary level.
  • Use only drugs on the WHO essential drugs list.
  • Work on the political and diplomacy aspects.
  • You may need to lobby and use advocacy to mobilize a much bigger aid effort.
  • Preparedness for a worsening of the situation is essential.
  • Rigorous audit, evaluation and monitoring is essential.
  • Good inter-agency co-ordination is critical.
  • Good leadership is needed to keep teams functional during extreme stress.
Code of conduct in disaster relief (International Red Cross, Red Crescent and NGOs).
  • The humanitarian imperative comes first.
  • Aid is given regardless of the race, creed or nationality of the recipients and without adverse distinction of any kind.
  • Aid priorities are calculated on the basis of need alone.
  • Aid will not be used to further a particular political or religious standpoint.
  • We shall endeavor not to act as instruments of government foreign policy.
  • We shall respect culture and custom.
  • We shall attempt to build disaster response on local capacities.
  • Ways shall be found to involve program beneficiaries in the management of relief aid.
  • Relief aid must strive to reduce future vulnerabilities to disaster as well as meeting basic needs.
  • We hold ourselves accountable to both those we seek to assist and those from whom we accept resources.
  • In publicity and advertising we recognize disaster victims as dignified human beings.

Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services is committed to providing equitable, culturally competent care to all individuals served, regardless of race, age, sex, color, national origin, religion, height, weight, marital status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

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