What is anticipatory action?
Natural hazards such as droughts, floods and cyclones are becoming more frequent and intense, leaving in their wake an unprecedented level of humanitarian needs. The number of people displaced by conflict and economic downturns, meanwhile, is the highest on record. However different in nature, these events require action from governments and international organizations to alleviate human suffering. And more often than not, the timing of interventions greatly affects how people experience shocks. Responding to these events after their impacts have materialized can take great tolls on the affected communities and erode their coping capacities over time. It also puts pressure on finite aid resources and can create a cycle of reactive responses to recurring hazards.
Anticipatory action is an approach that provides an opportunity to break that reactive cycle. It does so by predicting when these events will occur and acting early to protect people against their impact.
This way of working is now becoming increasingly embedded in the humanitarian system. Anticipatory action consolidates forecasting information and forward planning in ways that allow governments and the humanitarian community to act in advance of disasters or before they reach their peak, as soon as a warning sign appears. Effective use of early warning information and flexible finance mechanisms can mitigate or even prevent humanitarian disasters.
Acting on early warning information has been shown to curb projected increases in food insecurity, malnutrition and rural poverty. In doing so, it can protect lives and livelihoods in a rapid manner and ensure greater resilience of the most vulnerable.