Emergency response

Mockup of the START project (Spanish Technical Aid Response Team)

The Humanitarian Action Office propounds an approach to emergency interventions based on:

  • Preparation for crisis response, by strengthening local and regional capacities, supporting early warning systems, and supporting contingency plans by global and regional partner organizations. In this regard, the HAO is supporting disaster readiness in Latin America, in conjunction with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
  • Coordination of response activities, through United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) and the UN Secretary-General's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
  • Action in accordance with different international standardization, quality and accountability initiatives, such as: the principles of the Grand Bargain, the Sphere Project, the Quality & Accountability COMPASS, ALNAP and HAP.

In order to contribute to improved and more effective responses to emergencies from Spain's humanitarian action, in 2016 the HAO launched the START project (Spanish Technical Aid Response Team). As a result, Spain now has, for the first time, a top-level team of health professionals from the public sector who are ready to be deployed in under 72 hours to any region of the world where a humanitarian emergency occurs. This puts AECID at the forefront of European donor agencies in terms of humanitarian response.

START was certified by the World Health Organization as a specialized team on 31 May 2017. The project also forms part of the EERC (European Emergency Response Capacity), a system overseen by the European Commission's DG ECHO to coordinate and increase the effectiveness of Europe's humanitarian response within the European Civil Protection Mechanism. A significant portion of the START project is therefore financed with European funds.

The emergency and post-emergency response instruments employed by the HAO can be classified according to the actors undertaking the action, whether it is the HAO itself or the AECID Technical Cooperation Offices (direct response), or other actors such as national or foreign NGOs, international organizations, local entities, etc. (indirect response).

Direct responses take the form of immediately sending humanitarian aid following a catastrophe, from the Humanitarian Logistics Centres in Torrejón de Ardoz (Madrid) and the UNHRD (UN Humanitarian Response Depot) in Panama. Indirect responses are managed through emergency agreements with Spanish NGOs and international cooperation grants awarded to key international humanitarian actors (UNHCR, UNICEF, ICRC, OCHA and OCHA's Central Emergency Response Fund [CERF], POHA, and IFRC, through its calls for support and its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund [DREF]).

The HAO has promoted a process to develop and agree on tools to unify the response criteria of Spanish teams that collaborate in direct actions. In this regard, the HAO has a “Contingency Plan for Humanitarian Crises Caused by Disasters”, as well as “Standard Operating Procedures for direct disaster responses”, and Action Protocols for the fields of health, water, sanitation and hygiene.