Introduction to Humanitarian Assistance

Course Tuition: $390
Duration: 5 Weeks
Continuing Education Units (CEU’s): 2

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Course Description

According to Good Humanitarian Donorship, Humanitarian Assistance is broadly defined to mean the action designed to save lives, alleviate suffering and protect human dignity during and in the aftermath of man-made crises and natural disasters, as well as to prevent and strengthen preparedness for the occurrence of such situations. Humanitarian assistance in the international arena vastly differs from domestic emergency response within the United States. As a field unto itself, humanitarian assistance also differs greatly from shorter-term disaster response in scope, objectives, and duration. In addition, the field encompasses codifying norms, international standards, and critical concepts that exist to maintain humanitarian principles, ensure quality intervention, and create sustainable improvement.

After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, over 400 medical teams arrived to assist communities in need. Only a tiny fraction of teams were able to identify or plan intervention strategies and programs utilizing international humanitarian architecture or standards. This lack of knowledge translated into failures in communication, coordination, and usage of resources with direct implications for populations affected.

This problem is neither new nor has it been adequately addressed over time. Several studies, ranging from 2001-2014, have reported that a dearth of nongovernmental organizations responding to disasters offers any teaching or orientation prior to departure. Authors and practitioners have put forward a critical call to action for improved accountability, well-defined core competencies, and greater quality control. With appropriate and tailored training, practitioners will have exponentially improved efficiency, impact, and sustainability. In turn, these professionals better share expertise with local and national staff who remain, as always, the first-responders in their communities as they build themselves toward resilience and self-reliance.

In addition, the underlying circumstances necessitating pre-departure education of humanitarian workers have been intensifying. For example, the complexities of urban disasters require multi-sector coordination, community stakeholder engagement, and division of scarce resources more than ever. There are increasing risks and threats to humanitarian aid workers and less room for inexperience, waste, and error. Compassion in and of itself is not enough, however, compassion coupled with knowledge, guided by experience, and directed into effective action leads to substantive effective change. This course will provide participants an introduction to the knowledge necessary to engage in humanitarian assistance more effectively and sustainably. By providing participants the opportunity to examine and identify key components, participants will have a better understanding of humanitarian architecture as well as the ability to improve coordination and implementation of programmatic interventions.

Upon completion of this course participants will be able to:

  • Define complex humanitarian emergencies.
  • Explain potential differences in responses and impact of various types of emergencies.
  • Identify key definitions and indicators of severity.
  • Understand key standards that promote accountability in humanitarian response.
  • Recognize data collection and analyze issues and how they affect decision-making.
  • Discuss key organizations involved in humanitarian assistance.
  • Review the Humanitarian Cluster System and its main constructs.

Counts Towards the Following Specialized Track:

  • Humanitarian Assistance

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For more information about this program please contact Kristina Miller at or +1-970-237-3002 ext. 503.