Emergency and Humanitarian Response

A young girl stands in the doorway of her home near the beach at Nagaputtinam following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

A young girl stands in the doorway of her home near the beach at Nagaputtinam following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The psychological effects of the tsunami on children were especially critical, and many were afraid to return to the seaside in the weeks after the wave hit. Photo by David Snyder/CRS

With 60 years experience delivering humanitarian assistance throughout the world, Catholic Relief Services has a strong background in emergency preparedness and response. CRS adheres to international standards to the greatest extent possible in all of our 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.

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 our history, CRS has adapted what we do in emergencies and how we do 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 our 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.

Horn of Africa

More than 9 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa where late and erratic rains have brought only partial relief to a region that was gripped by drought and famine a year ago.

CRS mounted an emergency response in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia in July last year, bringing critical assistance such as food, water and sanitation services to millions of people in need, including hundreds of thousands who fled Somalia's famine to neighboring Kenya. Today, CRS continues to implement programs that help people regain their livelihoods and make them more resilient to future drought.

In Somalia, CRS has worked with local partners to provide health and nutrition services for displaced families, and is helping others to start small businesses so they will be better prepared for future droughts. In Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp, CRS has installed latrines and provided sanitation services and training to thousands of Somalis, while at the same time helping host communities that face the same problems recover their livelihoods. In Ethiopia, CRS has fed hundreds of thousands, and continues our critical work in watershed management to alleviate the effects of drought.

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