Graduate Certificate in Humanitarian Emergencies

Humanitarian issues encompass most of the issues facing global health and international development plus some security factors that are unique to emergencies. This includes:

  • Water and sanitation
  • Control of diarrheal diseases
  • Measles control/immunization programs
  • Control of acute respiratory infections
  • Malaria control
  • Public health surveillance
  • Reproductive health
  • War-related injury
  • Mental health

The Rollins School of Public Health in partnership with CDC's Emergency Response and Recovery Branch offers a Graduate Certificate in Humanitarian Emergencies.

What is a Humanitarian Emergency?

A humanitarian emergency occurs when:

  • There is a breakdown of authority due to internal or external conflict and;
  • There is an emergency situation exceeding the ability of the country's government to respond that requires an international response beyond the capacity of any single agency and/or the UN country program. 

Civilwar Chart

Common characteristics include:

  • Civilian casualties and populations besieged or displaced;
  • Political or conflict-related impediments to the delivery of assistance;
  • Inability to pursue normal social, political, or economic activities;
  • High security risks for relief workers; and
  • International/cross-border operations affected by political differences.

Emergency Aid Chart

Working in a humanitarian emergency is challenging and requires a broad knowledge base and a skill set particular to crisis management including:

  • Doing no harm
  • Providing good evidence to inform decision makers
  • Ability to work in challenging environments and resource-poor settings while being able to develop solutions quickly, efficiently, and effectively

This is a rigorous and competitive, two-year certificate program intended only for those who meet the below criteria. Between 15-20 students will be accepted into the certificate program each year. Applications are accepted in the fall of a student's first year. 

The ideal candidates for this graduate certificate are students who:

  • Want to work overseas in emergency and post-emergency settings as their career.
  • Have international development and/or relevant field experience in resource-poor settings.
  • Are committed to building practical field epidemiological methods skills for resource-poor settings.
  • Have the ability to effectively prioritize during an emergency
  • Are interested in advocating for the affected population to ensure their needs are met.

In the last several decades, the number of humanitarian emergencies has continually increased, and with it, so has the importance of public health resource allocation.

Examples of organizations with humanitarian emergency-focused projects and/or initiatives might include:

  • CDC Emergency Response and Recovery Branch
  • Atlanta Women's Refugee Network
  • The Center for Global Safe Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene
  • Global Health Institute
  • The Carter Center
  • CARE

Requirements for the Humanitarian Emergency Certificate include completion of:

  • Two core classes in humanitarian emergency response
  • One advanced methods class
  • Six credit hours in approved electives
  • Research or practicum component
  • Event or volunteer participation

Core Classes

Students are required to take the following three core courses:

GH 512 (2 credits) required
Health in Humanitarian Emergencies
*Five-day class during January break, year one

GH 510 (2 credits) required
Epidemiologic Methods in Humanitarian Emergencies
*Five day class over Spring Break

GH 538 (2 credits) highly recommended
Food and Nutrition in Humanitarian Emergencies
*Five-day class during January break, year two

Advanced Methods Class Requirement 

Students must select one class from the list below:

  • BIOS 501 - Statistical Methods II 
  • EPI 534 - Epidemiologic Methods II 
  • EPI 591U  - Application of EPI Concepts


  • Students are required to complete six credit hours of approved elective courses
  • All classes must be taken for a grade UNLESS an approved elective is only offered satisfactory/unsatisfactory (S/U). Only one S/U class is permitted as part of the electives requirement and only if it is not offered for a grade.

Research or Practicum 

Students must complete EITHER a research OR a practicum component as part of this certificate and should confer with their ADAP or faculty advisor when deciding which option best fits their needs.


There are two ways to fulfill your research component:

  1. Your thesis addresses a substantive humanitarian emergency topic.
  2. You write a 10-12 page research paper on a humanitarian issue. This paper can be part of a class requirement or can be specifically written to fulfill this requirement.


The practicum component is met through completing a service-learning internship in a setting or topic relevant to emergencies (ie WASH, maternal health, malaria). It is possible that your Rollins practicum requirment could also meet the certificate's requirement if it is in a relevant setting.

Event or Volunteer Participation 

Students are required to participate in five Certificate in Humanitarian Emergencies-related events (i.e. seminars/trainings) or 15 hours of certificate-related volunteer work. You can seek out events through Rollins student organizations (ie SORT) or local agencies and organizations such as The Carter Center.

Volunteer opportunities are also available with the following organizations:

  • Atlanta Asylum Network
  • Global Village Project
  • International Rescue Committee
  • Refugee Family Services
  • Friends of Refugees
  • World Relief
  • Embrace Refugee Birth Support
  • Lutheran Services of Georgia

GH 510 (2) Epidemiological Methods in Humanitarian Emergencies
Spring break. Prerequisites: BIOS 500, EPI 530, GH 512. This course will cover epidemiologic methods used in humanitarian emergencies; such as rapid assessment, surveillance, survey design (with a focus on cluster surveys) and analysis. In addition, the class will include other topics such as outbreaks in emergencies. Teaching methods will combine lectures and case studies of recent humanitarian emergencies. Classes will be very participatory. Five day intensive held over Spring Break.

GH 512 (2) Health in Emergencies
January break. This course covers the technical and management principles that are the basis of planning, implementing, and evaluating health programs for acutely displaced populations in developing countries. Emphasis is placed on refugees in camp situations. The course also includes modules on assessment, nutrition, epidemiology of major health problems, surveillance, and program management in the context of an international relief operation. Five day intensive held over January break.

GH 531 (1) Mental Health in Emergencies
Fall. Pre-Requisites: GH 510 and GH 512. This course covers essential principles necessary to understand and address mental health issues in humanitarian emergencies. Using epidemiological and ethnographic approaches, the course will highlight mental health surveys; outcome evaluation methods; best practices and evidence-based interventions for beneficiary populations; and preparation and training for emergency responders and aid workers. Three day intensive held over December weekend.

GH 532 (1) Risk Communications for Global Public Health Emergencies
Spring. This course encourages and facilitates improved risk communication for public health emergencies among public health authorities and partner organizations through the building of risk communication core capacities as part of the surveillance and response requirements of the International Health Regulations (IHR). Concepts of risk communication are taught through scenario-based exercises

GH 533 (1) Preparedness and Planning for International Emergencies
Spring. This course covers the essential principles of emergency preparedness and planning in the international context. Students will become familiar with concepts of Sphere standards, cluster system, Incident Command System (ICS), emergency operation plan development, and table-top exercises. The common pitfalls and challenges of emergency preparedness and planning will be discussed. Students will have the opportunity to review an existing plan and table-top exercise, and provide input for their improvement. Two day intensive held over February weekend.

GH 538 (2) Food and Nutrition in Humanitarian Emergencies
January break. Prerequisites: BIOS 500, EPI 530, GH 512. Malnutrition during humanitarian emergencies, including acute malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, is very common. The course will discuss how organizations decide when, what type and how much food to distribute during crisis. It will also address other programs that are used to prevent malnutrition, how organizations concerned with nutrition evaluate nutritional status in individuals and populations and the various types of feeding programs that are implemented in emergency situations. The course will include practical field exercises on nutrition as well as visits by guest practitioners from the field.

GH 577 (1) Health Needs Assessment in Emergencies
Fall. Prerequisites: BIOS 500 and EPI 530. Humanitarian health programs are developed quickly when large-scale disasters occur. In the past there has been little assessment of need in developing programs and monitoring their impacts. Yet funders increasingly demand accountability to identify program impacts and analysis of choices made to improve future programs. Skill at assessing need, justifying program development, and monitoring implementation builds on knowledge of field epidemiology to characterize the burden of disease, identify major intervention opportunities, and create or mobilize existing health service infrastructure. Students will become familiar with the tools, monitoring mechanisms, reports, and analytical methods used to assess, elaborate, monitor, and evaluate emergency health programs. Extensive examples and the actual tools and reports used, especially from disasters in Haiti and Pakistan in 2010, the Philippines in 2013, Syria since 2011 and the 2005 Asian tsunami, will be used in this hands-on course.

GH 578 (1) Logistics Operations in Humanitarian Emergencies
Fall. Prerequisites: BIOS 500 and EPI 530. Logistical pre-planning will identify intervention opportunities and mobilize existing logistics’ capacity to leverage more effective services for the existing health care infrastructure for humanitarian relief. In this course, students will become familiar with logistics tools, reports, and methodologies available for enhancing health care response needs during humanitarian emergencies. Logistics is critical for efficient emergency deployment and sustainability during all stages of humanitarian health response. Usually, little thought is given to logistics during the "ramp-up phase" of a humanitarian response because of the speed at which response efforts take place causing greater inefficiencies during the actual response. If many of the logistical considerations and needs were accomplished in advance of a CHE response and then tailored to fit the specific needs of the situation at hand, health care response programs would run more smoothly and avoided the added cost of considering logistics last minute. Examples will be used to illustrate the need for logistical planning, especially from disasters in the Philippines, Haiti, Angola, Kenya and Syria.

Fall Year One
Apply to CHE certificate program
by September deadline

Spring Year One
GH 512 (Required first spring)
GH 510 (Required first spring)
Research and secure CHE related practicum

Fall Year Two
GH 531 (elective)
Volunteer hours
Begin CHE thesis or requisite paper

Spring Year Two
GH 538 (Highly recommended second spring)
GH 532 (elective)
GH 533 (elective)
Finish CHE thesis or requisite paper
Finish volunteer hours

Application Deadline Send your application to

Full Time Students:

Part Time Students:

August 31, 2015

Before completion of 15 credit hours

Program Acceptance

September 14, 2015