Emergency Response & Recovery

With more than 70 years experience delivering humanitarian assistance throughout the world, CRS has a strong background in emergency preparedness and response. CRS adheres to international standards to the greatest extent possible in all of its emergency work to ensure that disaster-affected populations are at least able to meet their basic right to live a life with dignity. CRS works directly with affected communities and local partners to help restore and strengthen their pre-disaster capacities.

CRS responds to both natural disasters and, complex emergencies, a term coined in the post-Cold War era that describes today's violent conflicts often involving intra-state conflicts with regional implications. Complex emergencies result in massive numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons, gross violations of human rights and large-scale disruption of people's livelihoods. Complex emergencies are often exacerbated by natural disasters.

Today, there are around 34 million displaced people in the world. Of these, 20.3 million are internally displaced within their countries and 13.7 million are refugees who have fled to other countries. The number of displaced people around the world doubles every seven to eight years.

Emergency Preparedness, Mitigation and Response

CRS conducts emergency work wherever it is needed. A CRS emergency response is based on the needs of the affected population, CRS' capacity and that of our partners to respond, and the presence of other partners. Throughout its history, CRS has adapted what it does in emergencies and how it does it according to changes in the operating environment as well as within CRS. This ability to recognize changes and trends and to adjust accordingly contributes to CRS' role as a leader in international emergency preparedness and response.

CRS approaches its emergency response programming through a framework of saving lives, supporting livelihoods and strengthening civil society. From the very beginning of a disaster, CRS works with the affected community with the ultimate goal of moving from relief to reconstruction.

In addition, CRS helps communities around the world prevent future disasters through peacebuilding programs with a focus on preventing violent conflict. The agency also supports programs that prepare communities for natural disasters.

Nutrition and Food

CRS provides food for the general population and malnourished individuals when people's normal ability to access food is disrupted by disaster. Maintaining sufficient nutritional status is especially important during the acute stage of an emergency when people have little or no access to food. CRS' food aid programs address immediate food security needs while promoting activities that support sustainable livelihood.


The need for primary health care increases in emergency settings and is critical to any emergency intervention in order to minimize mortality. CRS implements a range of emergency health programming such as support to local health institutions to meet vital health needs and access to basic medicines.


CRS' emergency programs often include activities such as providing access to supplies for agricultural recovery and providing technical assistance to farmers to facilitate their return to production as soon as possible.

Shelter and Community Infrastructure

Programs with temporary shelter also include materials that can contribute to permanent housing construction. CRS' housing and community infrastructure programs focus on community-led construction that is appropriate to the setting.


CRS implements large-scale distributions of essential household supplies such as cooking pots, water containers, blankets, soap, and hygiene items during emergency responses.


Peacebuilding and Strengthening Civil Society

CRS supports local peace and reconciliation activities either as stand-alone projects, or as components of other emergency programs. Peacebuilding is defined by CRS as a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of conflict and includes the processes, interventions, strategies, and methods to promote a "just" peace.

Who Do These Activities Reach?

CRS provides humanitarian aid to the poor who are generally more affected by disasters as they do not have safety nets to rely upon in times of crisis. CRS also analyzes gender issues in its projects to ensure that its responses take into account the special needs of the most vulnerable groups.

CRS works with a wide variety of partners in disaster situations. Partners can include local communities, local churches, local and international non-governmental organizations, local governments, and United Nations agencies. As a member of the Caritas Internationalis (CI) Federation, CRS also coordinates with other CI members during emergency responses.

Background of CRS' Emergency Response Work

CRS was founded in 1943 to assist war-affected populations in Europe. Through the years, CRS has spent an average of 30 percent of its overall budget on emergency programs and has been present during some of the largest emergencies of the last decade including Hurricane Mitch, the Kosovo refugee crisis and in Afghanistan.

Technical Partners and Donors