Deliver Humanitarian Aid

A young girl standing near tents in refugee camp in Iraq.

One of the purposes of the United Nations, as stated in its Charter, is "to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character." The UN first did this in the aftermath of the Second World War on the devastated continent of Europe, which it helped to rebuild.

The Organization is now relied upon by the international community to coordinate humanitarian relief of emergencies due to natural and man-made disasters in areas beyond the relief capacity of national authorities alone.


OCHA and the UN System

"Each day I wake up in the hope of bringing about change. A change in the life of someone in need." The psychosocial camp counsellor for Atma IDP camp, herself displaced since 2012, visits displaced families every day to talk about their stresses and offer support to children who have lost their parents. ©OCHA

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) of the UN Secretariat is responsible for coordinating responses to emergencies. It does this through the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, whose members include the UN system entities most responsible for providing emergency relief. A coordinated, system-wide approach to humanitarian relief is essential in providing assistance quickly and efficiently to those in need.

OCHA’s mandate stems from General Assembly resolution 46/182 of December 1991, which states: "The leadership role of the Secretary-General is critical and must be strengthened to ensure better preparation for, as well as rapid and coherent response to, natural disasters and other emergencies. This should be achieved through coordinated support for prevention and preparedness measures and the optimal utilization of, inter alia, an inter-agency standing committee, consolidated appeals, a central emergency revolving fund and a register of stand-by capacities."


2020: A year of unprecedented need around the world. CERF met the challenge - allocating a record $900 million, it delivered life-saving assistance in 52 countries with unparalleled speed. CERF provided a record $225 million to 20 underfunded and neglected crises. First ever global pandemic allocation. First ever allocation to NGOs, CERF helped humanitarian partners reach those in greatest need. ©CERF

The UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), managed by OCHA, is one of the fastest and most effective ways to support rapid humanitarian response for people affected by natural disasters and armed conflict. CERF receives voluntary contributions year-round to provide immediate funding for life-saving humanitarian action anywhere in the world.


UN entities with a primary responsibility for delivering humanitarian aid

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) have primary roles in the delivery of relief assistance.

The World Health Organization (WHO) coordinates the response to humanitarian health emergencies.


Coordinating at the national level

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is responsible for operational activities for natural disaster mitigation, prevention and preparedness.

When emergencies occur, UNDP Resident Coordinators coordinate relief and rehabilitation efforts at the national level.

UNDP: 2020 Year in Review

Helping refugees

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) emerged in the wake of World War II to help Europeans displaced by that conflict. The agency leads and coordinates international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide.

The General Assembly created the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to provide emergency relief to some 750,000 Palestine refugees, who had lost their homes and livelihoods as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict. Today, some 5 million Palestine refugees are eligible for UNRWA services.

The UN General Assembly hosted a high-level meeting on 19 September 2016 to address large movements of refugees and migrants, with the aim of bringing countries together behind a more humane and coordinated approach.

UNHCR: "What you need to be warm” by Neil Gaiman

Helping children

Since its beginning, The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has strived to reach as many children as possible with effective, low-cost solutions to counter the biggest threats to their survival. UNICEF also consistently urges governments and warring parties to act more effectively to protect children.

The Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action – the CCCs – are the core UNICEF policy and framework for humanitarian action. They are at the heart of UNICEF's work on upholding the rights of children affected by humanitarian crises. The CCCs promote equality, transparency, responsibility and a results-oriented approach to enable predictable and timely collective humanitarian action.

UNICEF: Executive Director Henrietta Fore Humanitarian Action Message

Supporting women and girls

UNFPA, the sexual and reproductive health agency, provides humanitarian assistance in all regions with a focus on meeting the health and protection needs of women, girls and young people. We provide life-saving sexual and reproductive health services and supplies, services and coordination for the prevention and response to gender-based violence, along with integrated services for mental health and psychosocial support  and cash and voucher assistance. 


Feeding the hungry

The World Food Programme (WFP) provides relief to millions of people, who are victims of disasters. It is responsible for mobilizing food and funds for transport for all large-scale refugee-feeding operations managed by UNHCR.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is often called on to help farmers re-establish production following floods, outbreaks of livestock disease and similar emergencies.

The FAO Global Information and Early Warning System issues monthly reports on the world food situation. Special alerts identify, for Governments and relief organizations, countries threatened by food shortages.

FAO: Dominique Burgeon on Global Report on Food Crises 2020

Healing the sick

The World Health Organization (WHO) coordinates the international response to humanitarian health emergencies of all kinds ranging from disease outbreaks to conflicts to natural disasters. WHO is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.

In the 21st century, health is a shared responsibility, involving equitable access to essential care and collective defence against transnational threats.

WHO: A Global Response to a Global Pandemic


Where are the UN entities delivering humanitarian aid located?


Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

Based at UN Headquarters in New York City, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA, part of the UN Secretariat) has regional and country offices in West and Central Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Southern and Eastern Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Humanitarian Advisor Teams in many countries.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

UNDP Headquarters is in New York City.

UNDP locations

The Americas
Asia and the Pacific
Europe and Central Asia
The Middle East

United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)

UNHCR Headquarters is in Geneva.

UNHCR locations

Asia and the Pacific
The Middle East and North Africa

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

UNICEF Headquarters is in New York City, USA.

UNICEF locations


UNICEF has regional offices in Nairobi, Kenya and Dakar, Senegal. It also has country offices in West and Central Africa, offices in the Middle East and North Africa region and offices in Eastern and Southern Africa.

The Americas

UNICEF has many offices in Latin America and the Caribbean, and a regional office in Panama City, Panama.

Asia and the Pacific

UNICEF has an office for East Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok, Thailand, and a regional office in Nepal for South Asia. It also has country offices for East Asia and the Pacific, and country offices for South Asia.

Europe and Central Asia

UNICEF works in Central and Eastern Europe, and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Middle East

UNICEF works in the Middle East and North Africa.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

UNFPA Headquarters is located in New York City, USA, and the Humanitarian Response Division is in Geneva, Switzerland. UNFPA works in more than 150 countries globally with six regional offices.

UNFPA regional locations:

Arab States, Cairo, Egypt 

Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand

East and Southern Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa

Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Istanbul, Turkiye

Latin America and the Caribbean, Panama City, Panama

West and Central Africa, Dakar, Senegal

World Food Programme (WFP)

WFP Headquarters is in Rome, Italy.

WFP locations


WFP works in: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

The Americas

WFP works in the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru.

Asia and the Pacific

WFP works in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste.

Europe and Central Asia

WFP works in Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey.

The Middle East

WFP works in Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, State of Palestine, Syria, Turkey and Yemen.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

FAO Headquarters is in Rome, Italy.

FAO locations


FAO has a Regional Office for Africa in Accra, Ghana, and subregional offices and country offices in Africa.

The Americas

FAO has a Regional Office for the Americas in Santiago, Chile which supports Member Nations by monitoring food security levels; assisting in the design and implementation of hunger-eradication strategies, laws and programmes; and promoting family farming, agricultural and rural development and climate-change adaptation policies.

Asia and the Pacific

The FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific is in Bangkok, Thailand. The FAO Subregional Office for Asia and the Pacific is in Apia, Samoa.

Europe and Central Asia

The FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia is in Budapest, Hungary.

The Middle East

The FAO Regional Office for the Near East and North Africa is in Cairo, Egypt.

United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)

UNRWA Headquarters is in Amman, Jordan.

UNRWA locations

World Health Organization (WHO)

WHO Headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland

WHO locations

The Americas
Asia and the Pacific
Europe and Central Asia
The Middle East