INTRODUCTION The objective of this study is to identify the effectiveness characteristics, review the definition of them, and develop a conceptual mapping of existing domains in the field of International Humanitarian Assistance (IHA). METHODS We conducted a systematic review and searched the major databases (Science Direct, Scopus, Springer and Pubmed) and grey literature, including references of potentially eligible articles and conference proceedings through March 2015. Articles were included if they focused on IHA effectiveness. Reviewers independently identified the eligible studies and extracted data. RESULTS 10 studies were included and 48 characteristics were identified. There is a lack of scientific studies and agreement on the characteristics of IHA effectiveness. CONCLUSION This study could be the step toward an understanding of IHA effectiveness characteristics and its definitions with the findings making a base line for more research in this area.