In recent decades, escalating and protracted conflicts, natural disasters and extreme weather events often exacerbated by climate change, and major health emergencies, such as COVID-19, have resulted in rapid increases in the numbers of people and communities in need of emergency social assistance and support. These crises often compound existing problems of poverty, inequality and social injustice, disproportionately impact women and children, and increase hardships for those already predisposed to vulnerability.
Social service workers play a crucial role in helping individuals, families and communities respond to and recover from humanitarian emergencies. They also help individuals, families and communities build their resilience to withstand future emergencies. However, despite their critical role at the frontlines, they largely remain undervalued and unrecognized.
Drawing from a review of global reports and case studies, as well as from information sourced from Global Social Service Workforce Alliance members, this report brings to light the critical role of the social service workforce in different humanitarian contexts—including those related to armed conflict, natural disasters and widespread disease outbreaks—and across the emergency management cycle. It further highlights the challenges and key areas of learning in deploying social service workers in humanitarian contexts. Informed by these findings, the report makes key recommendations to ensure the social service workforce is better able to support communities and individuals in humanitarian situations.