Tipsheet: Protection and Livelihoods & Early Recovery


Humanitarian protection is about improving safety, well-being and dignity for crisis-affected populations. Protection refers not only to what we do, but also the way we do it. These principles include:

  • Do not cause further harm or create new risk of harm

  • Nondiscriminatory access to assistance and services

  • Identify the most vulnerable and their specific needs

  • Safe and dignified access to basic services

  • Community participation and empowerment

  • Strengthen positive community protection capacities

Humanitarian protection also includes being aware of specific protection issues that arise in disasters and emergencies, but do not fall within a particular sectoral or organisational mandate or capacity. These issues require information-sharing, advocacy or referral to specialized actors for appropriate response. Such issues include:

  • Child protection concerns (e.g. identifying and assisting separated and unaccompanied children);

  • Gender-based violence;

  • Sexual exploitation and abuse; and - Protection of people with disabilities (e.g. physical, neurological or mental); people displaced by disaster; and other vulnerable groups.

Protection problems may include discrimination, violence, abuse, exploitation, deliberate deprivation or neglect of vulnerable individuals or groups (e.g. religious and ethnic minorities; people with disabilities; women; children; youth; older people; and people of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sexual characteristics - SOGIESC) within the affected population. Some of these issues may have existed in the community before the disaster, and may increase with the shock and stress of the disaster or emergency. Others may arise due to humanitarian assistance and the way in which emergency relief activities are designed and delivered (e.g. inappropriate, inaccessible or unfair distributions).

Assistance or services provided must be (i) appropriate and accessible to all those in need within a population and (ii) provided in a manner that does not expose vulnerable people to further risk of harm.

Disasters affect people differently based on their age, gender, disability and many other factors. Vulnerable individuals or groups face different risks and barriers to accessing assistance and services before, during and after a disaster. These diverse needs should be reflected in assessments and response actions across all sectors. Below is a non-exhaustive list providing initial guidance in supporting protection-oriented relief and recovery activities.

General Protection Considerations for Livelihoods and Early Recovery

  • Identify which government agencies and other national actors are responsible for the provision of assistance and take steps to work together with the responsible government authority or authorities.

  • Identify the most vulnerable individuals or groups within the community and be aware of specific needs of all groups according to age and gender. Use this information to guide the design and delivery of assistance to ensure the most vulnerable can access assistance in safety and dignity.

  • Disaggregate beneficiary data by sex and age.

  • Communicate information on relief and recovery activities to the affected population in a range of formats (e.g. radio,
    TV, newspaper), and in the local language, to ensure accurate and timely information reaches the most vulnerable.

  • Ensure all employees and contractors are inducted in your organization’s child safeguarding policy (i.e. rules and a clear set of behaviours when dealing with children which is binding on all staff) and a Humanitarian Code of Conduct (e.g. Papua New Guinea Humanitarian Response Code of Conduct) that addresses sexual exploitation and abuse.

  • In designing livelihoods programs, ensure that you are aware of national laws regarding land title, particularly those relating to indigenous communities and applicable national labour laws.

  • Identify groups at risk of unsafe livelihoods practices (e.g. child labour, sex work) and prioritize provision of alternatives for these groups.

  • In situations of displacement, consider provision of income-generation support immediately following displacement to help prevent internally displaced people (IDPs) engaging in illegal or unsafe livelihood strategies.

  • Involve women and men in designing livelihood programs and consider women’s and men’s access to and control over agricultural or livelihood assets (e.g. land, tools, seeds, fertilizer).

  • Ensure the specific needs of vulnerable groups (e.g. female-headed households (HHs), minority groups, people with disabilities, people of diverse SOGIESC) are considered in designing livelihood activities and social protection programs.

  • Develop livelihood programming in a way that protects and supports household caring responsibilities and promotes family unity. Participation in livelihood opportunities should not undermine child protection or other caring responsibilities. Consider employing care providers, providing care facilities or supporting community care mechanisms to enable women’s participation in livelihood programs.

  • People with disabilities, people living with HIV, older people, children, women with caring responsibilities and others must be able to benefit from livelihood projects even if they are physically unable to participate.

  • In designing livelihood projects, analyze the local context and develop programs that promote peaceful coexistence, reconciliation and conflict prevention (e.g. projects that benefit both displaced communities and host communities).

  • The affected population and any host communities should be engaged in determining the form and content of livelihood programs, including the choice of traditional/indigenous livelihood practices over large-scale production.

  • Where appropriate, consider collective livelihood projects over individual projects. Collective livelihood practices contribute to community protection - particularly in rural community economies which are closely linked with social networks, community governance structures and cultural practices, increasing the resilience of whole communities.

  • Livelihood programs should ensure that local livelihoods, local markets or labour supplies are not undermined, and that dependency on aid is not created.

  • Monitor and respond to any exploitative child labour.

  • Monitor and respond to exploitation of groups and/or individuals (such as women or child-headed households) that rely on men or other groups to help with livelihoods projects.

  • In consultation with women, girls, boys and men, implement livelihoods programmes that minimize related GBV risks. For example, sensitize community members about GBV; work with local authorities to increase security measures; engage men and boys as supportive partners through workshops and discussions on gender issues; work with receptor or host communities to reduce competition over employment or natural resources.

  • Incorporate GBV messages (including prevention, where to report risk and how to access care) into livelihoods-related community outreach and awareness-raising activities, using multiple formats to ensure accessibility.

  • Include the following questions in on-going monitoring of livelihoods programs:

  • Are there any new patterns of income-generation or livelihoods post-disaster?

  • How are the most vulnerable (e.g. female-headed HHs; child-headed HHs) coping with the loss of livelihoods or economic insecurity? Are they accessing livelihoods programs?

  • Can participants in livelihood programs safely access production and market sites?

  • Does the delivery of livelihood programs create or increase protection problems and risks?

Protection Considerations for Assessments

  • Analyze the composition of the affected population in detail, ensuring the population and household composition is disaggregated by sex and age. Include the number of single-headed households disaggregated by woman, girl, boy, man head of household; pregnant or lactating women; unaccompanied girls and boys; elderly women and men; people of diverse SOGIESC; women, children and men with disabilities (disaggregated by type of impairment); and women, children and men with serious or chronic illness.

  • Assess the situation of all displaced people (including those in temporary settlements, those dispersed in smaller groups and those living with host families).

  • Identify existing coping strategies adopted by the affected population to respond to the disaster and prevent further harm (i.e. positive and negative coping strategies).

  • Based on the above information, sectoral staff should consider what arrangements are needed for females and for males with specific needs (such as those in the population groups listed above) to ensure they are able to access humanitarian assistance or services in safety and with dignity, including consideration of privacy or mobility issues.

  • Ensure host communities are included in assessments to avoid tensions arising between displaced people and host communities in terms of assistance provided (or not provided).