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);
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.
Note that “gender-based violence (GBV) is happening everywhere. It is under-reported worldwide, due to fears of stigma or retaliation, limited availability or accessibility of trusted service providers, impunity for perpetrators and lack of awareness of the benefits of seeking care. All humanitarian personnel ought to assume GBV is occurring and threatening affected populations; treat it as a serious and life-threatening problem; and take actions regardless of the presence or absence of concrete ‘evidence.’
Below is a non-exhaustive list providing initial guidance in supporting protection-oriented relief and recovery activities.
General Protection Considerations for Logistics
Identify which government agencies and other national actors are responsible for the provision of logistics services and take steps to work together with the responsible government authority or authorities to ensure protection considerations for implementing staff and beneficiaries.
Ensure all staff are aware of and trained on a Humanitarian Code of Conduct (e.g. Papua New Guinea Humanitarian Response Code of Conduct2 ) that addresses child protection and sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA).
Ensure contractors including warehouse officers, laborers, forklift drivers, truck drivers, etc have an understanding of the Code of Conduct. At a minimum, all contractors should have a contract that states how “they will not engage in any act of SEA” and that they will be held accountable.
The Code of Conduct and other information on humanitarian principles should be communicated to contractors in a way that can be easily understood, e.g. ideally in their own language or in a visual format that can be understood by all, including minority language groups and people who are illiterate or have low literacy.
Where services are being provided to beneficiaries or there is interaction with the community, ensure there are feedback mechanisms in place that are simple and accessible, enabling people to safely and confidentially report cases of violence, exploitation and abuse to the different organizations and actors who can then address or refer the cases as needed.
Ensure vehicles, trucks, and any other means of transport (contractor or own service) are clearly identifiable by the community through logos etc.
Be aware that quick procurement and delivery of key security and medical items is important in preventing and responding to gender-based violence (GBV). These items include lights or torches, street lamps, tents for vulnerable groups, dignity kits, Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) kits and other medical supplies necessary for the provision of essential clinical care for survivors of GBV.
Consider purchasing emergency items from local suppliers, even if more expensive, if it will speed up the delivery of essential items for preventing and responding to GBV. In the preparedness phase, review internal procurement policies to determine if this approach can be supported.
Ensure staff members are provided with the means for transport and communication to work in prevention and response to GBV and protection issues for women, children and vulnerable groups.
Provide logistics support to service providers for survivors of GBV, exploitation and abuse in order to facilitate care and response to critical cases including in remote and difficult to access areas. As this can be expensive, ensure that this is identified early in the process and included in the budget or funding request.
Ensure that vehicles, two-way radios/communications and human resources are available and can safely engage in night patrols where needed. As per above, as this can be expensive, ensure that this is identified early in the process and included in the budget or funding request.
Promote alternative and innovative equipment and tools to provide security according to the context (e.g. solar energy for lighting).
Provide guidance to procurement personnel on the specifications for commonly purchased articles that facilitate prevention of and response to GBV. Link with GBV specialists and other relevant sector actors as needed.
Put in place a mechanism that allows support sector actors to report (e.g. to a supervisor or an identified focal point within a contracting agency) any GBV-related concerns they may observe while carrying out their responsibilities (e.g. observing women, girls and other at-risk groups walking in isolated places or being threatened by others in the community).
Protection Considerations for Emergency Assessments Inclusive of the Affected Population
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.
Consider all displaced people in the assessment 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 that they are able to access humanitarian assistance or services in safety 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).