Building Sphere capacity in Nepal

30 May 2015 | Sphere Project

Sphere crash course in Nepal

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As the humanitarian community is busy responding to the crisis unleashed by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal on 25 April, an initiative to build Sphere capacity in the country received a warm welcome.

As has been proved most recently during the response to Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda in the Philippines, a relief operation is a crucial time to train aid workers on quality and accountability. 

Axel Schmidt, from the German NGO Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB), found evidence for that in Kathmandu on 11 May, when 76 people involved in the humanitarian response to the earthquake showed up at very short notice for a three-hour "crash" course on Sphere standards.

"Sphere is a powerful tool," says Schmidt. "It can make humanitarian work better, particularly for the beneficiaries." Which is why he was always keen to facilitate a Sphere course right in the first phase of a disaster response. "In Nepal, I just decided to do it," he explains.

The German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) offered the necessary space for the course and printed 300 "emergency" copies of the Sphere Handbook within three days. Participants came from UN agencies, the Red Cross, international and national NGOs and students.

Using some online resources and sharing his own experience as humanitarian worker, Schmidt introduced the audience to the Humanitarian Charter - that is, the "heart of the Handbook" - as well as to the minimum standards, key actions, key indicators and guidance notes.

The brief course also introduced the Red Cross and NGO Code of Conduct and Mary Anderson's Time to listen. Schmidt didn't have time to talk about the Core Humanitarian Standard, but recommended that participants read it after the course.

"There is always an opportunity to get inspiration, ideas, facts and so on when you take a look at the Sphere Handbook during your work at each step of the project cycle," Schmidt told participants in a follow-up email message.

"Having this kind of training on the spot in the aftermath of a disaster is a great idea as it makes our work so much easier and more efficient," says participant Francesca Schraffl, from Welthungerhilfe. "I discussed this with other participants and we all agreed that this is the best way to learn about the topic, since we could directly relate it to our experience and difficulties."

Schraffl adds: "I am incredibly happy about what I learned on Sphere and also to have the latest edition of the handbook. I will definitely try to embed as much of this in my work as possible and I hope to attend longer Sphere trainings soon."

[This article was edited on 1 June 2015.]

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