If you wish to be actively involved in a disaster area, it is important that you do this through an established group, rather than going it alone. Numerous individuals and small organisations getting involved can be more problematic than supportive. Governments and their administrations and major aid agencies already working to capacity to bring relief in as short a time as possible are unable to deal with numerous individual efforts, however well intentioned. A list of organisations involved in volunteer relief programmes can be found on the disaster management – volunteering section of this website.

Volunteer programmes organised by non-governmental and charitable organisations aim to bring health personnel and resources to areas where local resources are insufficient to meet needs in the disaster area. These organisations recruit individuals to provide health services free of charge. Although some organisations assemble teams to serve in the country for a few weeks, others establish clinics staffed by volunteers serving for months or years. Volunteers on short-term missions do not aim to rectify local shortage of health personnel but to meet existing need until the local system develops to take over.

Most agencies require professional practice experience and some international experience before recruiting people for disaster relief. Volunteers without prior experience are generally not selected for relief assignments. It is not unusual to ask that volunteers make a commitment to spend at least three months, and often more, working on a particular disaster.

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