Graduate Certificate in Humanitarian Emergencies

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

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

  • 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


frequently asked questions humanitarian emergencies
Frequently Asked Questions 

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 CHE Certificate include completion of:

  • Two core classes (GH 512 and GH 510)
  • One course in approved advanced methods
  • Six credit hours in approved electives
  • Applied Practice Experience relevant to Global Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
  • Thesis on a topic relevant to Global Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
  • Fifteen hours of volunteer participation

Core Classes

Students are required to take the following 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

Advanced Methods Class Requirement

Students must complete one course (at least three credit hours) from the following courses:

  • BIOS 501 - Statistical Methods II with lab
  • BSHE 539: Qualitative Data Analysis
  • BSHE 542: Socio-Behavioral Measurement
  • GH 521: Program Management
  • GH 522: Qualitative Research Methods for Global Health
  • GH 525: Qualitative Data Analysis
  • GH 560: Monitoring and Evaluation of Global Health Programs
  • INFO 501: Principles of Public Health Informatics II

Please note: Students in EPI/GLEPI/EH EPI programs may waive advanced methods requirement (and replace with 3 additional credits of approved electives) through demonstrating mastery of the epidemiologic competencies associated with this Certificate Program. Please speak with program coordinator for additional information on documentation of this waiver.


  • Students are required to complete six credit hours of approved electives.
  • 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.

Suggested Electives

  • GH 531: Mental Health in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
  • GH 532: Risk Communications for Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
  • GH 533: Preparedness and Planning for Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
  • GH 537: Programming for Sexual and Reproductive Health in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
  • GH 538: Food and Nutrition in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
  • GH 578 - Logistics Operations in Humanitarian Emergencies
Additional Electives

Practicum and Research

Students must now complete both an APE and a Thesis.

Applied Practice Experience

Students must complete an Applied Practice Experience which addresses a substantive topic in humanitarian emergencies.

The Applied Practice Experience (APE) component is an experiential based (typically summer) employment with an implementing organization across various sectors and technical expertise. All CHE APEs are approved by the CHE Manager, Education and Programs on a case-by case basis. CHE APEs may occur in non-acute (i.e. non-response) humanitarian settings which include: protracted emergencies and areas previously impacted by an emergencies. For more information, please see the APE section of the CHE website.


Students must complete a thesis which addresses a substantive topic in humanitarian emergencies.

Please note: With the permission of the certificate coordinator, students who complete a capstone rather than a thesis may take an additional 4 credit hours of approved electives to fulfill the thesis requirement.

GH 510 (2) Epidemiological Methods in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
Spring. Prerequisites: EPI 530, BIOS 500, and GH 512. This course covers epidemiologic methods used in complex humanitarian emergencies such as rapid assessment, surveillance, survey design (with a focus on cluster surveys) and analysis. In addition, the class includes other topics such as outbreaks in emergencies as well as practical sessions on anthropometry and field laboratory methods. Teaching methods combine lectures and case studies of recent humanitarian emergencies. Five-day intensive held over Spring Break.

GH 512 (2) Health in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
Spring. Prerequisites: BIOS 500 and EPI 530. The 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. It emphasizes refugees in camp situations. It 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 Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
Spring. Prerequisite: GH 510 and GH 512. This course covers essential principles necessary to understand and address mental health issues in complex humanitarian emergencies. Using epidemiological and ethnographic approaches, the course highlights: 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. Typically held Monday and Tuesday of Spring Break.

GH 532 (1) Risk Communications for Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
Fall. The objective of the course is to encourage and facilitate 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). Typically held over a weekend during Fall semester.

GH 533 (1) Preparedness and Planning for Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
Fall. 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. Half Semester course during second half of Fall Semester.

GH 537 (1) Programming for Sexual and Reproductive Health in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
Spring. Prerequisites: GH 510, GH 512, MISP online certificate. This course builds on students' knowledge of epidemiologic principles and health needs in complex humanitarian emergencies. It takes an applied epidemiological approach covering three essential components to sexual and reproductive health in complex humanitarian emergencies: program management, monitoring, and evaluation; policy and advocacy; and emerging issues and methods. The course will use a mix of lectures, discussions, and applied learning exercises to discuss how humanitarian conflict affects sexual and reproductive health outcomes, key guidelines and program priorities in the field, and areas of innovation and knowledge gaps.

GH 538 (1) Food and Nutrition in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
Fall. Prerequisites: BIOS 500, EPI 530, and GH 512. Malnutrition during humanitarian emergencies, including acute malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, is very common. This course will discuss how organizations decide when, what type, and how much food to distribute during crisis. It also will 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. Half semester course beginning in August.

GH 578 (1) Logistics Operations in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
Spring. 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.

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: See CHE website for exact dates