ReliefWeb was launched in October 1996 as a service by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). It is managed by the Digital Services Section of the Information Management Branch of OCHA.
The United Nations General Assembly encouraged the exchange of humanitarian information through ReliefWeb by all governments, humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations in resolution 51/194 on 10 February 1997.
In 2000, the redesign of the ReliefWeb site provided updated graphics, logo and user interface, improved functionalities and a new search engine.
In 2003, the UN General Assembly reiterated the importance of information sharing in emergencies, and of taking advantage of OCHA's emergency information services such as ReliefWeb in resolution 57/153.
In 2004, ReliefWeb was recognized at the UN21 Awards for achievement in the areas of "knowledge management" and "improvements to the working environment."
In 2005, ReliefWeb completed its first major redesign effort.
ReliefWeb was awarded the 2006 Web4Dev Award for excellence in web design and best use of the Internet as a tool to support development activities.
In 2010, ReliefWeb won the Special Achievement in GIS award for OCHA at the 30th Annual ESRI International User Conference, in recognition of outstanding work with GIS technology.
In 2011, ReliefWeb launched a brand new website that used the latest open-source technology Drupal to offer a cleaner design, more intuitive navigation, and a powerful search/filter engine and delivery system.
In 2012, ReliefWeb opened offices in Bangkok and Nairobi and developed a "Vision & Strategy" to become the leading hub for critical information on global crises and disasters, continuously rolling out new products and features. Year 2012 also saw the launching of Labs, a section exploring emerging opportunities to improve information delivery to humanitarians. It is the space to float new ideas, get feedback, prototype rapidly and incubate ideas into useful products.
In 2013, the mobile site was launched, allowing users to easily and quickly access content and offering an at-a-glance view of the humanitarian world. That year also saw the creation of the first Topic Pages.
In 2014, ReliefWeb conducted a major user survey to inform improvements to its services and the development of new features. In April 2014, the API was launched, allowing applications to talk directly to the ReliefWeb database and retrieve information. OCHA corporate web site started leveraging this technology to power much of its content with OCHA's information products uploaded to ReliefWeb.
In June 2015, ReliefWeb became a true 24/7 content service provider, with staff working around the clock to provide the latest humanitarian news worldwide.
In 2016, ReliefWeb marked its 20th year in operation.
In 2017, the team tested innovations such as the ReliefWeb Apps and RW Lite, which were replaced in 2018 by an enhanced version of ReliefWeb Mobile. Also in 2017, ReliefWeb started powering the entire content of its sister website, RedHum.
In 2019, the Crises Key Figures were made available on the ReliefWeb Mobile site, HDX and OCHA’s corporate website field operations pages. More than one million users visited ReliefWeb several months in a row - the highest monthly usage since the site was launched.
In 2020, ReliefWeb switched to a responsive site, in response to the growing number of users accessing the service through mobile devices.