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Emblem of the United Nations.svg
ReliefWeb Logo.svg
Abbreviation RW
Formation October 1996; 20 years ago (1996-10)
Type Specialized digital service of United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Legal status Active
Headquarters New York City
Satoko Nakagawa, Chief, Global Information Services Section, Information Services Branch, OCHA
Parent organization
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

ReliefWeb is the largest humanitarian information portal in the world.[citation needed] Founded in 1996, the portal now hosts more than 500.000 humanitarian situation reports, press releases, evaluations, guidelines, assessments, maps and infographics.[1] The portal is an independent vehicle of information, designed specifically to assist the international humanitarian community in effective delivery of emergency assistance. It provides information as humanitarian crises unfold, while emphasizing the coverage of "forgotten emergencies" at the same time. Its vision and strategy aim to make ReliefWeb a “one-stop shop for the global humanitarian community."[2]

Origin and development[edit]

ReliefWeb was launched in October 1996 and is administered by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The project began as the brainchild of the US Department of State, Bureau of International Organization Affairs, which had noticed during the Rwanda crisis how poorly critical operational information was shared between NGOs, UN Agencies and Governments. In 1995, the Department's Senior Policy Adviser on Disaster Management led a series of discussions at UN HQ in Geneva and New York City, as well as a conference on the project at the US Department of State in which both ReliefWeb as a product and the internet in general were touted as fresh tools for the humanitarian community. Its official launch was also the launch of the UN's first disaster website. Recognizing how critical the availability of reliable and timely information in time of humanitarian emergencies is, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the creation of ReliefWeb and encouraged humanitarian information exchange through ReliefWeb by all governments, relief agencies and non-governmental organizations in Resolution 51/194 on 10 February 1997.[3] The General Assembly reiterated the importance of information sharing in emergencies and of taking advantage of OCHA's emergency information services such as ReliefWeb in Resolution 57/153 on 3 March 2003.[4]

ReliefWeb maintains offices in three different time zones to update the web site around the clock: Bangkok (Thailand), Nairobi (Kenya) and New York City (United States).[5] Prior to 2011, the three offices were located in Geneva (Switzerland), Kobe (Japan), and New York (USA). The closing of the Geneva and Kobe offices were due to the higher costs associated with these locations.[6]

ReliefWeb has seen steady growth in usage.[7] In 2013, 11.85 million people visited ReliefWeb and 44,000 updates on humanitarian crises were published.[8]

A first major re-design effort was started in 2002 and completed in 2005, which focused on implementing a more user-centric information architecture.[9]

In April 2011, ReliefWeb launched a new web platform based on open-source technology to offer a powerful search/filter engine and delivery system.[10]

In 2012, ReliefWeb began to expand its focus to become the one-stop shop for critical information on global crises and disasters.[11] In November 2012, ReliefWeb revamped the home page, the "About Us" section and the Blog and introduced "Labs",[12] a place to explore new and emerging opportunities and tools to improve information delivery to humanitarian workers.


ReliefWeb disseminates humanitarian information by updating its web site around the clock. In addition, ReliefWeb reaches more than 168,500 subscribers through its e-mail subscription services, allowing those who have low bandwidth Internet connections to receive information reliably.[13]

Information from ReliefWeb is also available via RSS feeds, Facebook and Twitter.

ReliefWeb posts maps [14] and documents daily from over 5,000 sources from the UN system, Governments, Inter-governmental organizations, NGOs, academia and the media. In addition, a team of cartographers creates original maps focusing on humanitarian emergencies.

All documents posted on the site are classified and archived, allowing advanced searching of documents from past emergency responses. The database contains more than 500,000 maps and documents dating back to 1981.[15]

ReliefWeb is also a major repository of humanitarian job postings and training announcements. In 2013, 2,700 organizations posted 27,000 job announcements on ReliefWeb.[8] The job and training sources include Academic and Research Institutions, NGOs, International Organizations, Governments, Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement and the Media.

Mobile Apps[edit]

Mobile visitors to ReliefWeb have increased significantly in the last few years, with a 71% increase in 2015.[16] To meet this growing demand and make information more accessible to users, ReliefWeb began developing four mobile apps for humanitarians in June 2016.[16] In September 2016, ReliefWeb released[17] the following mobile apps[18] for iOS and Android:

App Description[17]
RW Videos Watch the latest humanitarian videos. From online training to video reporting from responders on the ground, ReliefWeb editors select videos from over 300 trusted sources.
RW Headlines Stay up-to-date with the latest headlines and disasters from around the world. Personalize content by country, topic, organization, and keyword.
RW Crises Access overviews of disasters on the world’s most pressing humanitarian crises. Get the latest maps, infographics, and situation reports as well as key figures such as the number of people affected and funding status.
RW Jobs Find your ideal humanitarian job on-the-go. Save your favorite job openings and get notified on the latest jobs based on your search criteria.

As of October 2016, ReliefWeb apps are compatible[19] with Android Kitkat (4.4) and iOS 9 and above.

ReliefWeb apps have been featured in news outlets like the The Huffington Post and Devex as well as blogs such as Appolicious, and In January 2017, ReliefWeb apps reached over 10,000 downloads.[20]

The next iteration of apps involves an Americas app as well as an improved version of the Crises app with more datasets and visualizations.

ReliefWeb API[edit]

The vast majority of ReliefWeb's content is owned by their content partners and contributed for re-publication. The first version of ReliefWeb's API was launched in 2014.[21] The API enables access to ReliefWeb's curated and continuously updated data archive going back to the 1980s.[22] It's now used to serve much of the ReliefWeb products as well as third party sites and apps.[23]

Almost all content visible on the ReliefWeb site is available through its API. The API is built to fit with current API best-practices, and is intended to be friendly to developers, as well as machines. It is publicly accessible using HTTP requests and returns JSON data.[24] ReliefWeb encourages developers to look at the API documentation to start using it. The documents have live examples, which allow users to modify the queries and see the results directly in the help page.


ReliefWeb is the go-to platform for both job seekers and recruiters in the humanitarian sphere. The jobs section is also the most popular section of the site. In 2015, over 30,000 jobs were published from almost 1,500 humanitarian organizations, which generated 13.6 million views.[25] In September 2016, ReliefWeb launched RW Jobs, a mobile app enabling humanitarians to search for jobs on-the-go.[26] ReliefWeb teamed up with UNICEF in November 2016 to enable automated jobs posting, where data from UNICEF would be imported via a unique feed. This partnership is aimed to generate more reliable job search results for seekers as well as make the posting process easier for recruiters. Organizations interested in exporting job feeds are encouraged to read the specifications here.[27]


ReliefWeb's training section features training courses and workshops, academic degrees and courses, as well as lectures, conferences, and calls for papers.[28] In 2015, over 3,700 training courses were posted on ReliefWeb, marking a 19.55% increase from the previous year.[29] The training section is most popular with users from the United States, with over 458,000 sessions in the past 12 months.[30] Meanwhile, Kenya hosts the highest number of training courses, with over 4,000 courses in the last year. [30]

ReliefWeb Data Snapshots[edit]

In December 2016, ReliefWeb launched the alpha version of Data Snapshots, a tool that allows users to "see how many people access ReliefWeb content online, which countries, themes or disasters are the most read, and where users are based, their main language, their device and browser, and user attributes." [31] Data analysts can gather historical data on content ReliefWeb has published since 1996.[32] The snapshots work well on mobile, tablet, and desktop and data sets are also downloadable in CSV format for further analysis. ReliefWeb Data Snapshots is powered by ReliefWeb API and Google Analytics API.


ReliefWeb has won the following awards:

  • Certificate of Superior Achievement in International Emergency Management (January 1999) from the United States Government.
  • UN21 awards (March 2004) for "knowledge management" and "improvements to the working environment."[33]
  • Web4Dev Award (2006) from the World Bank for excellence in Web design and best use of the Web as a tool to support development activities.
  • Special Achievement in GIS (2010) award for OCHA at the 20th Annual ESRI International User Conference, in recognition of outstanding work with GIS technology.


  1. ^ Ciancio, Adrian (2013-03-26). "ReliefWeb hits half a million mark". ReliefWeb. Retrieved 2017-01-15. 
  2. ^ "Vision and Strategy". ReliefWeb. 2012-09-30. Retrieved 2017-01-15. 
  3. ^ UN General Assembly Resolution 51/194
  4. ^ UN General Assembly Resolution 57/153
  5. ^ OCHA in 2012 & 2013: Plan and Budget
  6. ^ OCHA Annual Report 2011
  7. ^ "Evaluation of ReliefWeb 2006"
  8. ^ a b ReliefWeb Highlights 2013
  9. ^ "Redesigning the ReliefWeb"
  10. ^ OCHA Annual Report 2011, "The United Nation's ReliefWeb Relaunches" and "Launching the new ReliefWeb for the United Nations"
  11. ^ ReliefWeb Vision and Strategy 2012
  12. ^ "ReliefWeb Labs"
  13. ^ ReliefWeb 2010 Annual Statistics
  14. ^ OCHA Global Product Catalogue
  15. ^ Ciancio, Adrian (2013-03-26). "ReliefWeb hits half a million mark". ReliefWeb. Retrieved 2017-01-15. 
  16. ^ a b Lekhak, Birat (2016-06-30). "ReliefWeb Developing Four Mobile Apps". ReliefWeb. Retrieved 2016-10-11. 
  17. ^ a b Lekhak, Birat (2016-09-28). "ReliefWeb mobile apps released". ReliefWeb. Retrieved 2016-10-11. 
  18. ^ "ReliefWeb Apps". Retrieved 2016-10-11. 
  19. ^ "FAQ - Is my phone compatible with ReliefWeb Apps?". ReliefWeb. Retrieved 2016-10-11. 
  20. ^ "Downloads dashboard-App-all-20170103-2036.csv". Retrieved 2017-01-04. 
  21. ^ Rivera, Miguel Hernandez (2016-06-28). "ReliefWeb API documentation revamped". ReliefWeb. Retrieved 2016-10-12. 
  22. ^ "ReliefWeb API Provides Access to Historical and Real-Time Humanitarian Data". ProgrammableWeb. Retrieved 2016-10-12. 
  23. ^ "ReliefWeb API Documentation". Retrieved 2016-10-12. 
  24. ^ "ReliefWeb API". ReliefWeb. 2014-03-26. Retrieved 2016-10-12. 
  25. ^ Kathryn Lee (2016-11-22). "Behind the scenes: Making your job search results better". ReliefWeb. Retrieved 2016-12-16. 
  26. ^ Lekhak, Birat (2016-09-28). "ReliefWeb mobile apps released". ReliefWeb. Retrieved 2016-12-16. 
  27. ^
  28. ^ "Training". ReliefWeb. Retrieved 2016-12-16. 
  29. ^ Nakagawa, Satoko (2016-02-25). "ReliefWeb in 2015: Usage increases by 20% from the previous year, Africa now the biggest user base". ReliefWeb. Retrieved 2016-12-16. 
  30. ^ a b "RW Data Snapshots". Retrieved 2016-12-16. 
  31. ^ Rivera, Miguel Hernandez (2016-12-06). "ReliefWeb Data Snapshots: RW usage analysis powered by ReliefWeb API and Google Analytics". ReliefWeb. Retrieved 2016-12-16. 
  32. ^ "reliefweb/rw-data". GitHub. Retrieved 2016-12-16. 
  33. ^ "ReliefWeb wins two UN awards"

External links[edit]