Prehospital and Disaster Medicine

Special Report

Requirements for Independent Community-Based Quality Assessment and Accountability Practices in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Activities

Thomas D. Kirscha1a2 c1, Paul Perrina1, Frederick M. Burklea3, William Cannya4, Susan Purdina5, William Lina6 and Lauren Sauera2

a1 Center for Refugee and Disaster Response, The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland USA

a2 Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University Medical Institutions, Baltimore, Maryland USA

a3 Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Harvard School of Public Health, Cambridge, Massachusetts USA

a4 Catholic Relief Services, Baltimore, Maryland USA

a5 International Rescue Committee, New York, New York USA

a6 Johnson and Johnson Services, Inc., New Brunswick, New Jersey USA


During responses to disasters, the credibility of humanitarian agencies can be threatened by perceptions of poor quality of the responses. Many initiatives have been introduced over the last two decades to help address these issues and enhance the overall quality of humanitarian response, often with limited success. There remain important gaps and deficiencies in quality assurance efforts, including potential conflicts of interest. While many definitions for quality exist, a common component is that meeting the needs of the “beneficiary” or “client” is the ultimate determinant of quality. This paper examines the current status of assessment and accountability practices in the humanitarian response community, identifies gaps, and recommends timely, concise, and population-based assessments to elicit the perspective of quality performance and accountability to the affected populations. Direct and independent surveys of the disaster-affected population will help to redirect ongoing aid efforts, and generate more effective and comparable methods for assessing the quality of humanitarian practices and assistance activities.

Kirsch TD, Perrin P, Burkle FM Jr, Canny W, Purdin S, Lin W, Sauer L. Requirements for independent community-based quality assessment and accountability practices in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief activities. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2012;27(3):1-6.

(Received July 11 2011)

(Accepted December 22 2011)

(Online publication June 13 2012)


c1 Corresponding Author: Thomas D. Kirsch, MD, MPH 5801 Smith Avenue Davis Bldg., Suite 3220 Baltimore, MD 21209 USA E-mail