Information is needed to support humanitarian responses in every phase of a disaster. Participants of a multilateral working group convened to examine how best to meet these information needs. Although information systems based on routine reporting of diseases are desirable because they have the potential to identify trends, these systems usually do not deliver on their promise due to inadequate organization and management to support them.
To identify organizational and management characteristics likely to be associated with successful information systems in disaster settings, evaluations of the Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) programs in 12 participating countries were reviewed. Characteristics that were mentioned repeatedly in the evaluations as associated with success were grouped into nine categories: (1) human resources management and supervision; (2) political support; (3) strengthened laboratory capacity; (4) communication and feedback (through many mechanisms); (5) infrastructure and resources; (6) system design and capacity; (7) coordination and partnerships with stakeholders; (8) community input; and (9) evaluation. Selected characteristics and issues within each category are discussed.
Based on the review of the IDSR evaluations and selected articles in the published literature, recommendations are provided for improving the shortand long-term organization and management of information systems in humanitarian responses associated with disasters. It is suggested that information systems that follow these recommendations are more likely to yield quality information and be sustainable even in disaster settings.