3 Apr 2023

Expanding anticipatory action to new hazards

How to scale up anticipatory action is an increasingly common theme at humanitarian events. The focus of a Humanitarian Talk at the European Humanitarian Forum was on expanding this approach to three new hazards: disease outbreaks, conflict and food insecurity. 

The session attracted over 90 participants at the venue in Brussels, with many more joining online. After an introduction to the anticipatory action approach, participants split into three breakout groups to consider the different ways to apply this approach to these hazards. The main points from these discussions are as follows. 

Disease outbreaks  

  • Anticipatory action for health hazards, especially epidemic-prone diseases, will require adjusting the triggers and early actions used for hydrological and meteorological hazards.  
  • Epidemiologists and health experts can, however, build on the lessons learned from previous work in this field.  
  • Anticipatory action ahead of disease outbreaks and epidemics must be context-specific, as it is for other hazards. 

Food insecurity 

  • There is a need to further integrate anticipatory action in the humanitarian project cycle, where it can play an important role - especially for protracted crises such as the increasing food crises and growing food insecurity worldwide.  
  • This integration must be supported by analysis of the funding gaps, and identification of the right financing instruments and sources of financing (e.g., public and private, international and domestic). 
  • Links between humanitarian, development and peace-coordination structures need to be strengthened for a shared understanding of the triggers and actions required to implement and scale up anticipatory action. 


  • Anticipatory action in fragile and conflict-affected settings is crucial for ensuring that humanitarian support reaches those most in need, as many communities face compounding hazards related to both climate change and conflict. 
  • Programmes in such settings must be informed by careful contextual analysis and designed in collaboration with local actors; this increases their sensitivity to conflict and reduces the risk of contributing to existing tensions. 
  • Organizations that implement and/or fund anticipatory action need to understand the dynamic nature of these settings and be flexible in their operations and funding mechanisms. 
  • While there are challenges and operational constraints, the projects presented during the talk demonstrate that anticipatory action in fragile and conflict-affected settings is possible and can contribute to community resilience. 

Anticipatory action: an increasingly mainstream humanitarian approach 

The European Humanitarian Forum provided further evidence of the growing recognition of anticipatory action. Several sessions and talks explored different elements of this approach, while a number of high-level speakers cited it as an effective way to tackle the growing humanitarian challenges that people face. And 14 organizations were involved in planning and presenting the Humanitarian Talk on new hazards, including UN bodies, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement and NGOs. This demonstrates that anticipatory approaches are now firmly embedded across the humanitarian sector. 

The next challenge will be to ensure that the potential for scaling up, as identified during the discussions, is realized. “We need more research into what works and what doesn’t,” noted Juliane Schillinger from the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. “This will increase our understanding of these compound risks, and establish how we can anticipate multiple risks at the same time, including in fragile settings.”

You can watch a recording of the Humanitarian Talk on 'Expanding anticipatory action: crises and conflict, diseases outbreaks, food insecurity' here. Thanks to Juliane Schillinger (Climate Centre) and Dominik Semet (Welthungerhilfe) for their inputs.