Examining Humanitarian-to-Humanitarian Organizations

Humanitarian-to-Humanitarian Organizations
Humanitarian-to-humanitarian organizations (H2Hs), which have grown in prominence in recent years, provide behind-the-scenes support to the more visible front-line agencies that deliver humanitarian aid to those in need. These auxiliary organizations are usually dedicated to specific services, which allows other aid organizations to focus on their own strengths and avoid reinventing the wheel. Networks of these H2H organizations (modeled after ‘business-to-business’ or B2B networks) work together to provide services such as logistics, standardization, mapping and more to other aid agencies. Many of them are part of a Swiss group known as The H2H Network, described in its annual report. According to the H2H Network, humanitarian-to-humanitarian organizations fall into four different categories in terms of the types of support they provide. Here are some examples of organizations in each of these categories.

Humanitarian-to-Humanitarian Organization Categories

  1. Data, Information Management and Analysis. Some H2H organizations collect, manage and distribute data. For example, Evidence Aid provides summaries of academic articles on current research that is relevant to aid workers. Data Friendly Space helps aid organizations with tasks such as designing user interfaces and developing data analytics. For example, in 2019, it used AI to revamp the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre’s analytics process, which big data had recently overwhelmed.
  2. Community Engagement and Accountability. Some H2H organizations, such as BBC Media Action, Internews and C-DAC, work to develop communication and cooperation between aid groups and communities. They will provide services such as public relations, translation, communications in disaster zones and accountability feedback. For example, groups including BBC Media Action and Translators Without Borders are combating COVID-19 misinformation in several countries in South and Southeast Asia, through social media and community outreach.
  3. Security, Logistics and Programme Support. The H2H Network members from this department aim to build significant efficiency in the department of security and the management of resources. For example, several of these organizations manage logistics by facilitating better connections between supply and demand and producing items locally. Others, on the other hand, provide information on the threats pertaining to areas of high risk. The Humanitarian-to-Humanitarian organizations in this category include Aviation Sans Frontières and Humanitarian Logistics Association. HLA has been able to release guidance on how to ship humanitarian goods into Ukraine safely. In contrast, every year, thanks to ASF, around 600 seriously ill children have received access to treatments in European hospitals for operations that cannot be administered locally.
  4. Quality and Sector Professionalization: H2H Organizations are dedicated to improving learning across the field. They do so by establishing a general standard of what is adequate and desirable for the services that aid organizations provide. They also help individuals in dangerous environments to develop survival skills that allow them to handle and recover from natural and artificial disasters. One such organization is RedR U.K., which provides training and technical expertise to NGOs, aid workers and communities responding to humanitarian emergencies. Following the 2021 earthquake in Haiti, after conducting a quick learning needs assessment, RedR U.K. developed and implemented a training program to enhance the response’s effectiveness. Among the participants were representatives from aid organizations from sectors such as health, protection, education and food security. More than 90% of participants reported that they learned new skills and gained new knowledge from attending the training.

Looking Ahead

Humanitarian-to-Humanitarian organizations increasingly work toward the improvement and success of the humanitarian system and are crucial for the development of an even stronger and more successful humanitarian order. As in the words of Kim Scriver, director of the H2H network, “Often… we talk about system change in terms of… big heavy policy processes. H2H actors provide an important counterpoint to that. They are in the system but at the edge of it, able to demonstrate different [kinds of] change.”

– Caterina Rossi
Photo: Flickr