Before, during and after a humanitarian disaster there can be a lot of change, stress and trauma. For example, there can be changes in family structures, social support systems, levels of independence, access to services and basic goods, and in how and with whom individuals communicate. Also, there can be influxes of and/or changes in the organisations and individuals responding to the emergency. 

With all of this change, people can become extremely vulnerable. It is likely that the risks of Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Sexual Harassment (SEAH) and other harms and abuses will increase. Due to the heightened risks, it is especially important that organisations uphold global standards. Read this note on how to apply the standards in your organisation. We have outlined some key resources that organisations can adapt to their context and translate.

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Want to learn more about Safeguarding in a humanitarian emergency?

We have selected a few resources which will help you create a safer working environment in your organisation.

Recruitment and staff awareness

This safe recruitment tip sheet from South Sudan and the recruiting and managing volunteers note from Ethiopia outline some key ways to make your recruitment procedures safe. The resources can help you think through and manage the risks of recruiting different positions and categories of workers in your setting (e.g. staff, volunteers, contractors) .

It is important that a quick orientation is given before any volunteers, contractors or staff start work - this includes personnel from rosters. The main points to cover are listed under the “Orientation” heading in this tip sheet. You can also repeat them in regular meetings.

You can use this infographic to explain the basics of safeguarding.

Here are the rules on sexual conduct for humanitarian workers in 100+ languages and a related video “No Excuse for Abuse” in 40 languages. It is important that all staff, volunteers, contractors and anyone working for your organisation know how they should all behave and their obligation to report a suspicion or incident.

Community reporting

Do you want to make sure that the people your organisation interacts with can safely report any abuse or suspicions of abuse, but don’t know how? 

Do you want to know how to set up a community-based complaints mechanism (CBCM) when the "community" itself is new, has just gone through a disaster, and/or is still changing?

This how-to note was developed by RSH in Ethiopia for the Tigray region. You can adapt it to your setting.

Community awareness-raising

Some examples of awareness raising messages and methods for people who have been affected by the disaster are shared below. Make sure that appropriate terminology for your setting is used and that the messages are translated into all the relevant languages.

Protect yourself and others

Haiti zero tolerance poster

Safeguarding visual toolkit

Media and communications

When organisations communicate to different audiences during a humanitarian emergency, they may be at risk of causing harm because they are in such a rush or want to raise as many funds as possible. For example, organisations may not gather consent in the right way, may not protect people’s confidentiality or privacy and may not uphold people’s dignity in the messaging or images.

Adapt this tip sheet by RSH in Ethiopia to your setting to make sure that your emergency-related media and communications are safe.

Considering everyone

Different people face different risks of SEAH at different times. Read the RSH note on Intersectionality and safeguarding to understand why it is important for you to consider different characteristics, such as gender, race, disability, nationality, in your safeguarding measures at all times, including in humanitarian emergencies.

Service mapping

Create or identify a local service map (like this one from Ethiopia) so that you can refer victims / survivors if needed and consented. Many organisations will be creating and updating their service map, especially those who are programming on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) or child protection. Reach out and ask them to share their referral pathway; it is common and good practice to share service mappings. The information on services is generally publicly available and sharing it can help all organisations working in the same location work together to provide support to victims and survivors.


Due to the heightened risks of SEAH and other harms and abuses during an emergency, it is important that leaders understand and prioritise their role in creating a safe and supportive place to work. This tip sheet from South Sudan outlines 15 safeguarding actions for leaders.


Make sure that all staff, volunteers and contractors know how to respond to a report of abuse. This infographic developed in Nigeria might be useful to adapt for your setting.


Safeguarding Essentials