Ready to go when crisis strikes

Since 1993, UNDAC (United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination) has been the first emergency response team to arrive at the scene of over 281 disasters.

Credit: DND-MDN/Ariane Montambeault

On the front lines of international emergency response

From the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 to the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and the West Africa Ebola outbreak of 2014, UNDAC teams have responded to more than 281 emergencies in over 100 countries around the world as soon as they strike.

Credits: UNDAC / Stefania Trassari

The critical work of UNDAC members is to organize and coordinate the influx of international emergency response teams that arrive at the scene to help the hundreds and thousands of people left vulnerable in the wake of a disaster.

Crises in focus

Each month in 2018, UNDAC team members will revisit a memorable mission on its anniversary month.

As they share their accounts of being on the front lines in some of the world’s most memorable disasters, they will share their personal stories of help and rescue. They will even give us a sneak peek into their “go-bags”, those essential emergency bags that are “ready to go” with them as soon as the call to deploy to a disaster arrives.

Credit: UN Photo / Marco Dormino

Jan - 2010

Haiti: Earthquake

The Haiti earthquake of 2010 is considered this century’s deadliest. Striking the densely populated island on 12 January, the 7.2-magnitude earthquake and its aftermath killed over 220,000 people, including 102 United Nations staff, and displaced 1.5 million others.

Credit: Fabio Trebbi

OCHA / David Ohana
Fabio Trebbi

UNDAC Team Leader, Haiti Earthquake

Jesper Lund was on the third plane to arrive in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, landing just 16 hours after the earthquake struck. He found destruction and shock all around.

“The sight that met me there, I will never forget,” he said.

Music and Mars bars

Jesper’s go-bag style is simple and to the point. His must-haves are Mars Bars, instant soup, his sleeping bag and a blanket. Other basics include soap, shampoo and lots of UNDAC shirts. Jesper always carries his headsets – Internet radio transports him to his hometown station from wherever he is deployed, helping him to relax as he listens to news from home and his favourite 80’s music.

Credit: UNICEF / Sokhin

Feb - 2016

Fiji: Cyclone Winston

On 20 February 2016, Winston became the most powerful tropical cyclone to ever strike Fiji. Packing winds of up to 320 km per hour, the cyclone killed 44 people and affected 350,000 others—thats 40% of Fiji’s total population.

Credit: UNICEF / Sokhin

Credit: OCHA / Danielle Parry

Sebastian Rhodes Stampa

UNDAC Team Leader, Fiji Cyclone Winston

“The destruction was very severe in certain areas: 100% destruction of the houses, 100% destruction of crops. That will have a significant impact on Fiji going forward.”

Sebastian and his UNDAC team had been monitoring Winston as it strengthened from a tropical storm to a Category 5 cyclone. When Fiji’s Government called for help the day after Winston hit, they were ready to board the next plane and deploy.


Never out of sight

Sebastian is very particular about his go-bag, its contents and even its whereabouts – it never leaves his sight. There is some gear he finds indispensable: communications gadgets, torches, a good pocket knife, a couple of carabiners and some decent rope. But his absolute must-have is Biltong, which is dried South African meat. Without it, he simply can’t function.