Sharing evidence on humanitarian relief

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.331.7531.1485 (Published 22 December 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:1485
  1. Edward J Mills, fellow (millsej@mcmaster.ca)
  1. Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada L8N 3Z5

    Needs a publicly accessible, searchable, and comprehensive database

    One year ago the Asian tsunami struck, resulting in the largest humanitarian efforts of our generation. This year's hurricane Katrina and earthquake in Kashmir also showed that both developed and developing nations are ill prepared for major disasters. Rapidly sharing relevant information from relief agencies and academic and non-government organisations (NGOs) at such critical times can make an important difference to tens of thousands of people.

    Relief agencies conduct fact finding expeditions in emergencies, as well as important public health measurements such as water testing, measles surveillance, and conflict surveillance. Their reports often provide the most up to date and relevant evidence on relief situations,1 but are too often shared only internally. For agencies and field coordinators to make informed decisions, access to this information is vital.

    We must, therefore, consider how to create and disseminate evidence regarding humanitarian interventions.2 One absolute necessity is a publicly accessible, searchable, and comprehensive database on humanitarian disasters and approaches to relief. The lack of systematically documented or disseminated information leads to unnecessary duplication of efforts and ill informed decisions. Given the inadequacy of funding for relief aid, resources must be used wisely.

    Some relief databases are …

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