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World: Humanitarian and Country Icons 2012

27 August 2012

OCHA adds 500 free humanitarian symbols to communications tools and services

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs (OCHA) has created a set of 500 freely available humanitarian icons to help relief workers present emergency and crisis-related information quickly and simply.

When a disaster strikes, it is vital that the humanitarian community can gather reliable data on the locations and needs of affected people and who is best placed to assist them. This often involves the need to present complex information in a way that everyone can understand.

“Clearly presenting and visualizing this information is the next step and hopefully leads to more effective and timely humanitarian assistance,” said Akiko Harayama, Head of OCHA’s Advocacy and Visual Media Unit (AVMU), OCHA.

OCHA’s icons are used throughout the range of information products it produces for the humanitarian community, such as maps, reports, infographics and websites (

”After the first set was released in 2008, we started to receive requests for new symbols from our humanitarian partners, including UN agencies and NGOs in the field around the world,” said Harayama. “In the midst of a crisis response, relief workers would not have the time or design skills to create useable symbols.”

The set of symbols has since expanded to cover everything from natural disasters, such as tsunamis and earthquakes, to relief supplies, such as water containers and shelter kits. It also includes complex humanitarian issues, such as access to people in need and protection of civilians. Countries and territories are also covered.

Sofya Polyakov is the co-founder and CEO of The Noun Project—a website that offers a crowdsourced collection of universally recognizable icons for visual communication. She explains: “Symbols are some of the best communication tools we have to overcome many language and cultural barriers. By making symbols easily accessible, OCHA is helping humanitarians, disaster responders and people around the world to quickly and easily communicate important concepts, no matter where they are.”

The symbols can be downloaded for free on ReliefWeb and The Noun Project Whenever possible, credit as follows: “Source: OCHA”. We would appreciate a notification via email with a link to your work for our records. Suggestions and feedback can be sent to