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UNICEF Innovation

Emergency Kit Labeling



UNICEF has a long history of working in emergencies and humanitarian contexts. One crucial activity UNICEF engages in during emergencies is to mobilise and send out various types of supplies and emergency kits to help people in need of life-saving equipment. To get the emergency kits to the required location, UNICEF relies on their distribution channel. This channel depends on the information on the emergency kits to ensure the right kits are delivered to their intended destinations. For all kit labelling, UNICEF previously purchased white stickers and printed textual information in black ink. That labelling system lead to communication and handling problems. 

Challenges to current model

For all kit labelling, UNICEF SD previously purchased white stickers and printed textual information in black ink. That labelling system lead to communication and handling problems. That labelling system lead to communication and handling problems. In emergencies there tends to be a degree of chaos, which can cause kits to be sent to the wrong location. In addition, current kit labeling requires literacy, which can prove challenging in some contexts.

Each of these kits contains 4 model sub-kits: the Basic Kit, the Renewable Kit, the Supplementary Kit 1a, and the Supplementary Kit 1b. The Basic Kit could be assigned a triangle, while the Renewable Kit could be assigned a circle. Thus, in an emergency a warehouse worker would quickly see that the box with the red triangle is the Interagency Emergency Health Kit – Basic Kit, and would efficiently and correctly manage the boxes. The precise colors and shapes for the labels are yet to be confirmed. However, it has been decided that pastel colors will be used, as this will still allow for the black ink printing to remain visible.


In 2011, students from the Danish Technical University were approached to help UNICEF innovate on this project. They explored new concepts in labelling, barcoding, and a reception checklist. UNICEF decided to concentrate solely on labelling to effectively support the main challenges encountered in the field. In 2013, the Emergency Unit sought feedback from 30 representatives from UNICEF Country Offices. While response rate was low, the overall consensus was that the suggested improvements in labelling were positive and that the project should move forward. 

Designing the new labels

The improved labels are distinguishable by both colour and symbol. Colour indicates the type of kit, while symbol indicates the model sub-kit content. 

For example:

Interagency Emergency Health Kit (red)

Midwife Kit (green)

Malaria Kit (blue) 

Obstetric Kit (yellow)

Education kit (pink)

The new labels are more structured and easier to read than the previous labels. Important changes include:

1) Each emergency kit is represented by its own colour of labels. 

2) Each kit of an emergency kit is represented by a symbol. 

3) The part number is in a very large font, making it easy to see. 

4) The kit name is also very big and noticeable.


English Kit Label Guide

Arabic Kit Label Guide

French Kit Label Guide

Kit Label Guide in English, French, Arabic


December 2016

The emergency kit labels are now used globally. Surveys assessing whether the added colour and symbols to the labels aid in the identification, organization, and further distribution of kits in emergency situations revealed overwhelming positive results with 88% of respondents finding the symbols useful for kit sorting purposes and 82% finding the colours help when sorting kits.

Feedback from colleagues on the ground told us that while colours and symbols help to make it easier to identify and sort boxes that make up a complete kit, it is not always easy to interpret what the colours and symbols mean. In response to this feedback, UNICEF has published a new guide to help supply and logistic colleagues interpret the information given on the labels. These can be found under the resource tab above. It is hoped that the guide will further speed up kit identification and help with training. Initial feedback on the guide has been extremely positive. 




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