CRS in Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic has made significant progress in development during the last 10 years. Programs that combat poverty and social exclusion have been implemented and basic services such as electricity and water and sanitation continue to be extended. Meanwhile, an intensive advocacy effort on the part of civil society has led to the recent implementation of a national plan to improve quality education and an increase in the country’s education budget to four percent of the GDP. 

In spite of this growth and progress, large inequalities remain in poor urban and rural areas, bateyes (shantytowns once used to house sugar industry workers) and border regions. Some of the country’s most pressing challenges include having one of the lowest health budgets in the region, impunity for corruption, increasing citizen insecurity, alarming proportions of femicides, a lack of a sustainable and equitable fiscal policy, poor enforcement of labor law and few formal employment opportunities, especially for youth.

While Haitian migrants make up the bulk of the workforce in essential economic sectors such as agriculture or construction, they still struggle with social and institutional discrimination, and are frequently denied their labor rights. Institutional discrimination also affects Dominican-born children, who are often denied citizenship and therefore cannot access basic services.

Catholic Relief Services’ programs in the Dominican Republic focus on fostering human development and community empowerment through programs in peacebuilding and human rights, education, and emergency response and disaster preparedness programs.  Building the capacity of our local partner organizations is a priority that informs all of our programs. To that end, CRS Dominican Republic works with our network of partners to establish sound business practices, to improve fundraising and grant-management skills, and to become agents of change in their communities. 

CRS also coordinates the Global Network of Religions for Children in the DR, dedicated to promoting dialogue and interfaith cooperation to secure the rights and well-being of children; and provides technical support to a national coalition of civil society organizations advocating for the rights of children.  


People served: 19,901

Population: 10,734,247 (July 2015 est.)

Size: 18,792 sq. mi.; slightly more than twice the size of New Hampshire

CRS' History in Dominican Republic

Catholic Relief Services has had a presence in the Dominican Republic since March 1961, when urgent health needs brought CRS into the country to assist the most vulnerable. Since then, CRS has actively implemented projects countrywide in community development and institutional capacity, health, HIV and AIDS, emergency assistance, human rights and peacebuilding. The programs are all designed to build the foundations needed to improve the lives of poor Dominicans and help them withstand future hardships.

During the last five years, CRS has taken an innovative approach to helping people prepare for and respond to emergencies by supporting the creation of youth brigades which work within their communities to assess and reduce risk and create response and evacuation plans. 

As the Haitian population continues to grow, CRS has developed an integrated approach to improving the lives of Haitian (and Dominican) laborers through the creation of workers’ rights centers. The network of centers offer workers a place where they can learn about their rights, report violations and seek free legal advice.