Responding to an emergency is not an easy task, with the scene likely to be chaotic.  Hour after hour, people need to work together to make sure the emergency response is as effective as possible. The international humanitarian response is grounded around the Humanitarian Program Cycle, which has been streamlined to promote best practices by making humanitarian action more predictable and more efficient. IMG_0009A key phase in the cycle is the assessment of the impact of the emergency on affected people.  Whatever assessment model is used, it is crucial that the results come out quickly and are as indicative as possible so that actions can be prioritized, and limited resources maximized.  OCHA, with other humanitarian stakeholder, have been working to operationalize the Transformative Agenda commitments, including to conducting credible assessments to support response planning, timely decision-making and resource mobilization.

To support improved, more predictable assessment capacity, regional partners from Latin America came together in Guatemala in June to participate in the CAIM (Coordinated Assessment and Information Management) training.  The training starts from the premise that information overload is a reality.  Therefore, there is a need to understand information management tools, services and best practices so that data and information can be quickly analyzed to help prioritize the assistance that needs to be delivered.

The first CAIM course in the Americas included participants from the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team, national authorities, UN agencies, donors and NGOs from 10 countries and seven regional organizations.

The training included steps to quickly and effectively initiate joint coordinated assessments, presented ways to coordinate secondary data for analysis, and stressed the importance of community level assessments. During practical sessions, participants practiced the theory by undertaking a series of tasks using common tools and electronic applications now available to the humanitarian community.

Enriching the theoretical and practical sessions, participants exchanged experiences from recent coordinated assessments carried out in Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Ecuador, following the recent earthquake.   Exchange of real experiences helped to consolidate the learning experience.

Much more needs to be done to reduce the risk of disasters and their impact on thousands of Latin Americans each year.  In the meantime, trainings such as the CAIM help to upgrade the skills of humanitarian personnel to better support the critical assessment phase of an emergency.