Experience, Expertise and Emergency Response: Help and Hope for People in Crisis

Photo by Andrew McConnell for CRS

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Catholic Relief Services is currently responding to emergencies in more than 18 countries on four continents. Our most recent responses are to Typhoon Koppu in the Philippines, to Hurricane Patricia in Mexico and to the Afghanistan/Pakistan earthquake. In each location, our response is tailored to local needs. We’re able to be present over such a wide area—with the expertise and experience needed—because the Church and our donors continue to support us in serving the poorest people around the world.

Our responses in two of the most publicized crises—Europe’s burgeoning population of refugees and Nepal’s devastating earthquake—underscore the critical nature of our partnership with Caritas, headquartered in Rome.

The Church, Caritas and our donors are vital to our commitment to reach people in desperate need. We are so grateful for their unwavering support of the CRS mission. Thanks to the generosity of all of these key partners, we are easing human suffering.

European refugee crisis

Refugees continue risking their lives to make the perilous journey from their war-torn nations toward Europe, facing hurdles and humiliation, to reach safe havens. Increasing numbers of people are fleeing Syria, Afganistan, Iraq and other countries. Since January 2015, more than 360,000 refugees have arrived on the shores of Greece alone. Their hope is for asylum in the northern European Union countries. In 2015, some 2,000 Syrians drowned in the Mediterranean in their attempt to reach European shores. Others have become victims of trafficking, are subjected to abuse en route, or both. Some spend their life savings or take on massive debt for a new start. Refugee families need food, water, sanitation, protection from the elements and legal advice. With winter approaching and conditions deteriorating, the need is greater than ever.

refugees in Belgrade

CRS has served nearly 63,000 refugees with food, emergency supplies, and medical and other assistance. Photo by Kira Horvath for CRS

CRS response

Thanks to the generous support of our donors, CRS is responding to this crisis with $2 million. We’re working with our Church partners in Greece, Albania, Macedonia and Serbia, and will soon reach our initial goal of serving 63,000 refugees. We are providing:

  • Food and emergency living supplies, including clean water, hygiene kits, sleeping bags and mats
  • Medical assistance through doctors treating hundreds of refugees daily
  • Temporary shelter for refugees, who are sleeping in parks, forests and abandoned factories. CRS and our partners in Serbia have provided several large structures with beds, toilets and showers for the most vulnerable.
  • Information, translation and legal resources so families know their rights and options, and can make informed decisions


Food and emergency living supplies

  • 1,450 people, including 300 babies, received hygiene packages in Serbia, and 4,600 people received food, water or hygiene kits in Macedonia
  • 7,352 people received humanitarian relief items in Macedonia
  • 511 people, including 32 babies, received food, hygiene and baby kits in Zaječar, Serbia
  • 3,246 people were registered, processed and provided with humanitarian aid in Zaječar, Serbia

Medical assistance

  • 1,026 people received medical assistance provided by CRS doctors at refugee aid points in Serbia

Temporary shelter

  • 2,985 people have benefited from a CRS-constructed shelter and hygiene center in Serbia

Information, translation, legal resources

  • 7,690 refugees and migrants have used CRS translators and information services
  • CRS interpreters and information officers assisted 78,500 refugees in Kanjis, Serbia

Here are 7 things you can do to make a difference for refugees. Donate now.

Support for resettlement in Germany

In Germany, where the massive influx of refugees is overwhelming government and social service resources, dozens of local Catholic dioceses and thousands of volunteers are stepping in. Caritas Germany and its partners are providing critical services for some of the 800,000 refugees and migrants expected to apply for asylum and refuge. CRS will support Caritas Germany in resettling uprooted Syrian families—providing shelter, job opportunities and early integration activities, such as language classes. CRS will also support training for local Church and Caritas volunteers assisting refugee families at the frontlines.

Providing emergency relief around the world

South Asia

In Nepal, nearly 6 months after the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake, CRS and Caritas have provided 103,000 people with emergency relief. Our efforts have now fully transitioned to early recovery activities.

Nepal earthquake aftermath

CRS staff member Elizabeth Tromans unpacks supplies for a distribution in Nepal, where we’ve provided items such as hygiene kits, like those in the background, to 103,000 people. Photo by Jennifer Hardy/CRS

In India, incessant rains have led to severe floods in several parts of Assam, forcing 175,000 people to take shelter in 300 relief camps. CRS is providing diverse relief and recovery assistance.

In Pakistan, a drought has severely depleted crops and livestock. CRS is assisting communities with support for livestock productivity and improved coping strategies for future droughts.


In the Central African Republic, violence and insecurity intensified in September. CRS teams and partners are providing relief to thousands displaced by deadly conflict.

In Ethiopia, two failed rainy seasons in 2015 have led to food scarcity—for people and their livestock—and a lack of seeds. CRS will invest heavily in providing seeds for the upcoming planting season, as well as in fodder, feed and vaccinations for livestock. CRS has stepped up our response.

In Mali, people are facing the dangerous combination of internal conflict, drought and flooding—all of which have depleted the country’s limited resources. CRS is responding with living supplies, and crop and livestock support. We’re also helping people form savings groups.

In Nigeria, people are fleeing the increasing violence of jihadist group Boko Haram, which has carried out attacks in the northeast, killing more than 13,000 people since 2009. CRS is providing health care, nutrition and other support.

In West Africa, remarkable inroads have been made in Ebola prevention, but the fight is not over. In September, the World Health Organization declared Liberia free of the virus. The country is now in a 90-day period of heightened surveillance. CRS continues to help people protect themselves and recover. 

In South Sudan, CRS is working with communities and the Church to help hundreds of thousands of people uprooted by conflict. Fear of hunger is on the rise. CRS is providing shelter, living supplies, water, and seeds and farming tools.

Latin America

The dry corridor in the Central American countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua has experienced prolonged drought related to El Niño. Families dependent on subsistence farming and agriculture day labor are facing depleted food reserves, limited employment opportunities and rising grain prices. CRS is helping increase food security, and improve nutrition and family resilience.