Humanitarian Bazaar | War Survivors Advisory
Humanitarian Bazaar produces projects focused on how peope survive war and disaster.
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The War Survivors Advisory currently being built by Humanitarian Bazaar, harvests the wisdom of past war survivors to speed up the learning curve for civilians facing war for the first time. Together with our network of survivor-researchers, we produce advocacy kits for protection of innocent civilians in war along with practical training modules, events, and recommendations for local civilian first responders in communities at-risk of mass violence. Ready to help out? If you are a war survivor, please write us and we can arrange a confidential, anonymous interview about what techniques you can pass on to families newly at-risk. Otherwise, we ask everyone to please donate through our new Crowdrise fundraising page here. Thanks to all the many people who have helped out so far, both offline and online!!! ===> DONATE HERE.


As fighting rages in Aleppo, Mosul, Sana’a, Donetsk, Kunduz, and beyond, and even hospitals and schools have been hit, millions of civilians are trapped in the crossfire. Many families have disabled, elderly, or young dependents who are difficult to evacuate, or cannot afford to flee, so they are at high risk of getting killed or injured. There are many medical, humanitarian, and mine action response teams aiming to help them, but the realities of war mean that most of that help comes months or even years after the community has already been destroyed. Therefore, most civilians are left to their own devices in the lead up and first months of violence and isolation.

That’s why Humanitarian Bazaar, with a vast network of aid worker, war journalist, and refugee advisers, decided to create the War Survivors Advisory as a more local, organic approach to “pre-harm” civilian protection. Beyond conventional war journalist, aid worker, and military security trainers, we believe there is much more transferable technique to be harvested from regular people, most of whom will never have access to helmets, flack jackets, professional first aid training, college, or money to install things, so they need really practical hacks that anyone can do, as demonstrated by someone like them.

Much of these “pre-harm” efforts have been done in the past, especially during the Second World War with large-scale radio programs about air raid safety, government-organized evacuation plans, and underground metro stations converted to mass bomb shelters. But over the past decades, such universal “pre-harm” protection, helping people before their community is destroyed, has been hard for most agencies to fund in the current humanitarian coordination which focuses more on “post-harm” response. Many aid workers and journalists, in fact, get professional expert training and equipment to respond in conflict-affected communities where they work with thousands of mothers, children, and elderly who live their long term and never have access to such security and safety training without a project like this. How will it work?

Meet some of the many brave families who are taking part in our War Survivors project in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Ukraine, and soon Syria and Somalia. Photo credit:


How does one build a bomb shelter? Reinforced shelter bed? A combat crib? A sniper blind? How do you zone living space and courtyards for risk of gunfire or sniper fire? Millions of people who survived past wars know these things, but need help passing these skills and advice to civilians currently living in crossfire. Now we can do something about it. In the War Survivor’s Advisory: Phase I, we are working with independent private donations from individuals to conduct a global assessment.

That means paying local war survivors to conduct research in their communities which includes focus group discussions, video interviews in which survivors can demonstrate a survival technique (anonymous, without showing face, is okay if they prefer), and a survey questionnaire. We also provide cash grants to any survivors who demonstrate an important technique and have a specific need.

In August 2016, we launched phase one in communities caught between Afghan forces, the Taliban, and Da’esh in rural Nangarhar, Afghanistan. This allowed us to start with the most difficult situation, and the least sophisticated and resourced community first, to see if this project can work! Successfully including our first 120 families there, we then moved on, in November 2016, to add communities still trapped in ongoing urban shelling near the front line in Avdiivka, eastern Ukraine.

Prior to all of this, we also conducted initial interviews in Bosnia, Somalia, and with Syrian refugees, as well. With the right support, this global assessment will include Afghanistan, Bosnia, Somalia Syria, and Ukraine, to show a cross section of civilian factors of education level, income level, gender, urban/rural, while avoiding political and ethnic partisanship.

Our goal will be to complete our initial Survivors manual & report, documentary video, and proposal for new partners for expansion based on the assessment totaling deep field context research, 12 focus group discussions, 24 expert interviews, 120 local survival technique interviews, and 1200+ family questionnaires for quantitative data showing how the local survivors believe are the best routes to assist.


We collect requests and practical questions from newly affected populations in war areas. Based on that, we call for humanitarian experts, war journalists, but most of all, civilian survivors of past wars to contribute answers. With our team’s expertise, plus content submitted from around the world we will shape peer-to-peer video trainings, demos, blueprints, and more which we will take to help build capacity of the local NGOs on the ground who know the local neighborhoods. We’ll prioritize these areas:

    • How to find existing and early-arriving humanitarian agencies, or otherwise organize based on civilian community structures like hospitals, schools, etc;
    • How to match volunteers with isolated disabled, elderly, or shut ins who are vulnerable;
    • How to prepare and pack, even if you are not able to leave yet.
    • Although heavy weapons may be unavoidable, not only experts but also survivors can teach techniques and tips for protecting family;
    • Bomb shelters, combat cribs, alarms, drainage, etc.
    • Crossfire blinds, understanding ricochet and arcs, etc.
    • Details added soon.
    • Details added soon.
    • And otherwise any of the practical household areas not able to be addressed by local authorities or humanitarian organizations.


While we must stage our tools on our coming online multi-media platform, and share them through UN coordination bodies for protection clusters,, Reliefweb, partner organizations, and even Youtube, we must endeavor seriously to deliver these tools where they are needed most, offline, in communities that are poor, remote, or isolated and have little to no internet access.

Of course, the WSA project will be impartial and must avoid discussion of politics and the military tactics, focusing on the other aspects of survival. Participants can take part anonymously. Participants will never be labeled by their ethnicity or political affiliation.

As soon as our new WSA website is built, we will launch the WSA basic platform. When more grants are secured, we will grow from there. If you can help with creating protection tools and content, grant writing, fundraising, and/or have contacts to pass forward, please let us know at:


Photo: Bala Hissar, Shahada, Kabul, Afghanistan. Daniel J Gerstle.