Message from Jesper Lund

As the 2017 comes to a close, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your most valued support during the last 12 months. ESB’s relationships with our operational partners, technical networks, governments, donors, NGOs, private sectors  and regional organizations are vital in making our achievements possible.

jesper-dec2017 was quite a year for all of us at ESB. We’ve been through many changes and developments, but also achieved a huge amount. Particular highlights have included 12 UNDAC Missions to 12 countries, surge deployment of more than 130 people to more than 30 countries; 6 CMCoord support missions to 6 countries/region; 7 environmental emergencies missions to 7 countries; 13 IEC/IER Classification of USAR Teams, some 60 training & exercise and launch of 3 online training courses. ESB facilitated two international conferences in 2017. I was delighted with the large and very diverse participation and interesting discussion at the Environmental Emergencies Forum in Nairobi, co-hosted with UN Environment.  The HNPW 2017 was also very productive and successful in bringing together more than 1200 participants to find solutions to some of the most pressing global humanitarian challenges and ensure progress of the respective technical networks forming this event. I hope you will join us again at the next HNPW  in February 2018, where the focus will on how to strengthen collaboration between existing and emerging partners and network. You can read more and register on

The OCHA downsizing exercise did impact ESB, but I would like to thank you all for your significant support and dedication during these changing times. As part of the change management process “creating a better OCHA”, ESB will be reorganized as the Emergency Response Support Branch, and will be an integrated part of the Coordination Function of the organization in 2018. The change process is still ongoing as we enter into 2018, and we will continue to keep you updated. While our Branch will be reorganized into new structure, we will continue most of our ESB functions including the maintenance and enhancement of the strong network of partners and stakeholder.  Partnership and relationship-building with various stakeholders, while its end-result is less visible, will enable OCHA to support capacity building and deliver of response in emergencies and hence will continue to be one of the top priorities for our new Branch. A good indication of this is the nearly 40.000 users of the Virtual OSOCC that facilitate communication across networks and organizations. I am sure by working together and keeping focused on our priorities we can realise our shared goal which is to help disaster-affected populations.

With best wishes for a prosperous 2018



Launch of the Environmental Experts Hub!

The Environmental Experts Hub (EE Hub) aims to provide practical guidance to experts deploying on environmental emergency preparedness and response missions through the UN Environment / OCHA Joint Unit (JEU). On this site, you will find all the necessary information, guidance, tools and training materials in preparation for deployment. Through the Hub, you will also be able to join our Community of Practice, an informal platform where experts can learn, share and keep in touch with the JEU and other environmental experts around the world.



JEU supports deployment of Environmental Safeguards specialist to Bangladesh

An Environmental Safeguards specialist is supporting UNDP on an environmental impact assessment of the influx of the Rohingya population into Bangladesh. The expert is deployed through the UN Environment / Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Joint Unit (JEU ) emergency response mechanism with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), from 7 November until first week of December.


Training at the EU Emergency Response Coordination center


The OCHA Brussels Liaison Office, at the request of the Field Coordination and Support Section (FCSS), provided two training sessions for the Duty and Liaison Officers of the Emergency Response Coordination Center (ERCC) of DG ECHO on the international humanitarian architecture, the role of OCHA, UNDAC and the Joint UN Environment-OCHA Unit with a focus on the relations with the European Civil Protection Mechanism. The sessions took place at the ERCC on the 17 and 29 of November for a total of 15 people.

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Credit: OCHA/EU Liaison Office


An active month for INSARAG in the Americas

It has been a busy month for the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) community in the Americas. On 17 November, Bomberos de Chile USAR Team successfully finished an intensive 36-hour INSARAG field exercise and classified as a medium team in accordance with the INSARAG guidelines. Consisting of 179 volunteer firefighters from all over the country, it was the first country in Latin America and the 51st in the world to successfully undergo an IEC. The team was mentored by Joseph Anthony Bishop from the UK, while a professional group of experts from Switzerland, Spain, France, Germany and the US participated in INSARAG’s flagship and unique peer review and quality assurance process.

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Credit: Bomberos de Chile

The following week, Argentina organized a national earthquake Simulation exercise. From 21 to 23 November, USAR teams from across the country, as well as other countries in the region came to the city of Bariloche to respond to a simulated 8.6M earthquake. The exercise, referred to as SIMEX, tested national protocols and procedures to coordinate national response and receive international assistance. Bariloche lies 220 km from the site of the strongest earthquake ever recorded, the 9.5M earthquake, which shook the Chilean town of Valdivia on 22 May, 1960 and caused a large-scale tsunami in the lake Nahuel Huapi overwhelming the city’s port. The Secretary of the Argentinian Civil Protection and the President of the White Helmets Commission signed a legal framework establishing a national accreditation process in the country.

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Processes of accreditation of national USAR teams were at the centre of the conversations during the 16th Meeting of the INSARAG Americas Regional Group, hosted by the Ecuadorian Secretariat of Risk Management from 29 to 30 November in the city of Guayaquil. Over 40 participants from 16 countries discussed a variety of issues relating to search and rescue policy and operations, and agreed to a number of engagements in 2018. The regional Chairmanship was handed over to Mexico, which will lead the development of the regional work plan for next year during the Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week in February in Geneva.


The first week of December brought 24 USAR team members, operational officers of national disaster management offices and UNDAC team members from across the continent together for the first USAR Coordination Course in Spanish, held at the Centralamerican Search and Rescue Academy in San Jose, Costa Rica. The participants dived into the technical aspects of INSARAG USAR coordination methodology, putting knowledge to practice in two practical exercises and a full-fledged Simulation Exercise, during which they established and reported to a Reception and Departure Centre and a USAR Coordination Cell.

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UNDAC Induction in Senegal

Another successful UNDAC Induction course took place in Saly, Senegal, from 22 October to 3 November, generously funded by the Government of Belgium and Canada and in collaboration with the OCHA Regional office for West and Central Africa in Dakar. This was the first Induction course in French. Participants, 31 in total, came mostly from French-speaking African countries including Central African Republic, Cameroon, Benin, Comoros, but also Belgium and Haiti, as well as international organizations such as European Commission, Plan International, IFRC, FAO, WFP, UNDP and UNEP.

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The 11-day training provided participants with the knowledge and tools needed to be deployed and effectively operate in a typical UNDAC mission, such as the OSOCC methodology, coordinated assessments and the UNDAC mission software. The training included a three-day simulation exercise supported by staff from MapAction and the International Humanitarian Partnership, which helped participants to test and to put into practice the UNDAC methodology in an earthquake type of scenario.

UNDAC deployment in response to 7.3 magnitude earthquake in Northeastern Iraq

A United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team that deployed on 14 November upon the request of the Government of Iraq, following a 7.3-magnitude earthquake that struck Iran and affected northeastern Iraq, completed its mission on 2 December.

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, the local authorities led search, rescue and relief operations with strong support of locally-based UN agencies and international NGOs. When the UNDAC team arrived in Baghdad on 15 November, findings of the OCHA-led inter-agency initial needs assessments indicated that the humanitarian impact was not as severe or widespread as initially feared. OCHA and partners helped the Government to manage the rapid response very well despite the continuing Level 3 Emergency. By 17 November, the high-level delegation led by Government sent to the affected areas by the central government concluded that humanitarian needs had, for the most part, been addressed. The authorities however remained concerned about the damage to the Darbandikhan dam, which if it failed, would affect the population downstream for up to 100 km.

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The UNDAC team conducted a rapid UNDAC disaster response preparedness evaluation on the national disaster preparedness and response capacity and plans in the affected districts. The areas never experienced an earthquake and communities were not prepared nor well equipped to deal with the response appropriately at all levels. Recommendations on first response arrangements have been shared with the authorities, and in line with the standards recommended by the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group –INSARAG.

The highly qualified Hydro-Structural Engineer deployed jointly with UNDAC by the European Civil Protection Mechanism concluded that there was no imminent threat of flooding in regards to the affected dam, following interviews, onsite inspections and review of preliminary results of joint technical investigations. This perspective was also shared by World Bank experts and government water authorities. Satellite images and analyses provided by the UNOSAT, another UNDAC partner, also confirmed the engineer’s investigations.

The team presented its findings and recommendations to the national disaster management authority on 29 November. The Government welcomed all recommendations, and accepted the invitation to join the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group, INSARAG, and took steps to apply for membership. UNDAC also did further study at the request of the Iraqi government which enquired about earthquake vulnerability – to this, studies and research evidence has made it overwhelmingly clear that North-East Iraq is indeed prone to possible future earthquakes and that they have to be prepared for such eventuality.

Before departure, the team debriefed in Baghdad UNDP, the World Bank and key donors such as Sweden, Canada and the United States, to open avenues for the implementation of other recommendations that require medium to long-term investments and alignment with programmes underway.


This was the 13th UNDAC mission in 2017 and the 281st in UNDAC’s 24-year history that was sent to respond to a sudden onset natural disaster that occurred in a complex emergency environment.