Global Disaster Response and Humanitarian Action

Global Disaster Response and Humanitarian Action2022-03-14T10:10:40-04:00


To provide a professional response to those affected by disasters and emergencies.


Global Disaster Response and Humanitarian Action (GDRHA) at Massachusetts General Hospital Global Health is committed to providing well-trained personnel and resources to immediately respond to a full spectrum of humanitarian – natural or man-made – emergencies. GDRHA maintains the highest standards in clinical care, organizational management, and ethical practice.

The cornerstone of the GDRHA program is the availability of dedicated MGH doctors, nurses and other health professionals who are trained to professionally respond and serve during disasters and humanitarian crises.

As a center of excellence in disaster preparedness and response, GDRHA leverages the multi-disciplinary expertise of MGH and the MGB community to deliver the highest level of care to people affected by disasters. GDRHA is committed to continuously improving quality and effectiveness of humanitarian response through education and training, strong partnerships, and innovation and research.



Info Sessions

Info Sessions provide background on our program, share ways we serve those affected by disasters and humanitarian crises, and outline the process to become a member of the team. The GDRHA Info Sessions are held virtually once per month.

If you are an MGB employee and interested in becoming a volunteer with the GDRHA team, please email to inquire about dates and times for these sessions.


2020 Educational Trainings

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are postponing in-person GDRHA events and trainings for the foreseeable future. Members of the GDRHA roster will be notified when new trainings are planned. You may also check back here for future events.

Online Trainings

Building a Better Response (BBR) aims to strengthen the capacity of NGO staff, as well as other humanitarian actors, to engage in humanitarian coordination and improve response to the needs of crisis-affected populations (required for onboarding to GDRHA roster).

BSAFE: Online Course provided by the United Nations This online course covers basic safety and security preparedness while working overseas, provided by the UN Department of Safety and Security. Highly recommended for anyone traveling or working internationally. Click here for instructions on how to register. is a free, easy-to-use online training resource designed to help prepare aid workers for the demands of field worked.


Outside Trainings

“Sphere in Practice” online training and MOOC supports students, humanitarian professionals and anyone who wishes to learn about humanitarian standards in an interactive and engaging way.

Health Emergencies in Large Populations (HELP) course is offered by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and offers humanitarian workers an intensive training experience in public health principles and disaster epidemiology.

HumanitarianU Disaster & Response eCertification is a recognized certification program that provides information, skills and accreditation to support relief efforts in disasters and crises.

Unite for Sight Global Health University is a nonprofit organization committed to excellence in global health. Unite for Sight’s Global Health University is designed to develop and nurture current and future global health leaders.

Disaster and Humanitarian Response Resources

The Sphere Standards have become a primary reference tool for national and international NGOs, volunteers, UN agencies, governments, donors, the private sector, and many others with the goal of improving the quality of humanitarian assistance and the accountability of humanitarian actors to their constituents, donors and affected populations.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is the part of the United Nations Secretariat responsible for bringing together humanitarian actors to ensure a coherent response to emergencies.

WHO Emergency Response Framework (ERF) clarifies the World Health Organization (WHO) roles and responsibilities during emergencies.

The Foreign Medical Teams (FMT) Working Group under the auspices of the Global Health Cluster and WHO provide the classification and minimum standards for foreign medical teams (since renamed emergency medical teams or EMTs) in sudden onset disasters.


One of the best ways you can get involved with global disaster response is to be prepared! Being ready to deploy at any time is a very helpful way to get involved. Here are some recommendations:

Take the recommended online trainings (Building a Better Response and UN BSAFE) any time. These are required of all volunteers who are deployed through MGH Global Disaster Response.

Make sure your passport is good for at least 6 months into the future, as this is also a requirement for anyone who wishes to be deployed.

Make sure you are up to date with all your required vaccines. While individual countries may have specific requirements, a list of the most commonly required vaccines can be downloaded here. All healthcare workers should already be up to date with Influenza, Hepatitis B, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and Varicella. Check with the MGH Travel Clinic or your personal physician if you have any questions.

Have a “go-bag” ready. Having a “go-bag” is considered a basic security measure. This is a small bag with essential items that you can grab if you must “go” somewhere quickly, i.e. evacuate in case of emergency. This should sustain you for 1-2 days even if your main luggage is lost or inaccessible. An exhaustive list of what could go into a “go-bag” can be downloaded here, but be aware that not all missions will require all items.

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