Rapid Response
Muse Mohammed

Rapid Response

Applying for Rapid Response Grants

CERF rapid response funds can help to reduce the inconsistency and delays humanitarian organizations may experience when receiving voluntary contributions. Rapid response funds help support life-saving, humanitarian activities in the initial stages of a sudden-onset crisis. They may also be used to respond to time-critical requirements or a significant deterioration in an existing emergency.

Rapid response funds are disbursed as soon as possible. They can be used as soon as a disaster occurs and must be expended within six months. The LoU between OCHA and the eligible recipient will clearly specify the date that funds can start being used. If the recipient wishes to use funds prior to this date, it must clearly explain why.

Rapid response allocations should fulfill the “life-saving” criteria, as defined by CERF’s mandate, and result from a country’s needs assessment. Activities should be chosen from a country’s set of core humanitarian programmes and be essential to the overall humanitarian response.

The provision of rapid response funds is a field-driven exercise whereby:

  • The RC/HC recommends use of CERF and identifies priority life-saving needs by consulting the IASC country team.
  • The RC/HC submits a package of proposals based on assessed needs.
  • The ERC approves applications.
  • UN disburses funds to eligible agencies.

For Rapid Response applications related to slow onset disasters (e.g., drought), CERF urges applicants to review and complete the rapid response request [ English French ] prior to engaging in a full-fledged application. This note will facilitate early consultations and help determine the application's eligibility. 

Agencies cannot submit proposals directly to the ERC.

Application Process


Rapid response funding was initiated by the General Assembly in 2005. It provides funding for three types of situations:

  1. Sudden-onset emergencies
  2. A rapid or significant deterioration of an existing humanitarian situation
  3. Time-critical interventions

Eligible organizations

UN organizations (excluding OCHA) and IOM. NGOs cannot request rapid response funding.

Application process

A rapid response allocation is a collaborative process and is managed by a country’s RC and/or HC. Following consultations with the humanitarian country team, an RC/HC will solicit in-country applications for rapid response funds. 
Applications are accepted throughout the year; the process requires the RC/HC to draft a cover letter to the ERC and provide a completed CERF application. The CERF secretariat will review the application and the ERC will make the final decision.

Rapid response applications will include humanitarian projects that are critical to a country’s emergency. Projects should:

  • Respond to the needs of a sudden-onset emergency, rapid deterioration of an existing crisis, or time-critical intervention.
  • Be based on recent, coordinated needs assessments, demonstrate access/capacity to implement, be essential for the humanitarian response, and prioritized by the HCT and the RC/HC through a consultative process.
  • Comply with the Guidance on CERF Life-Saving Criteria (26 January 2010) and any sectoral guidelines set by the ERC at the time of allocation.
  • Jump-start or initiate an emergency response. Funds should not be used to support a previously existing emergency response.  CERF will not fund 100 per cent of an emergency’s project requirements except in rare circumstances.

Implementation timeframe

Funds should be committed and project activities completed within six months of the date that CERF disburses funds (CERF disburses funds directly to a recipient agency’s headquarters).
In situations where agencies expense funds before CERF disburses funds, the agency may request an earlier disbursement date. However, this date must not be six weeks prior to CERF’s intended disbursement date and should not be before the emergency actually occurs.