Global Emergency Update August 2021

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Haiti Earthquake


On August 14, 2021, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti at 8:30 a.m. GMT, about 80 miles west of Port‑au‑Prince, in Nippes department. Catholic Relief Services and our partners are already at work to meet people’s immediate needs for food and shelter.

Haiti quake survivor standing near rubble holding photo of lost brother

Greogory Andre shows a photo of his brother Remossa Andre, who died during the earthquake in Camp-Perrin, Les Cayes, Haiti.

 AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn



More than 2,000 people have lost their lives in the earthquake, and thousands were injured. The numbers are likely to rise as search and rescue efforts continue. Communities continue to feel aftershocks.

The earthquake destroyed homes, infrastructure and businesses, and displaced tens of thousands of people throughout the southern region, Grand Sud. The earthquake was stronger and shallower than the catastrophic 2010 earthquake that claimed more than 220,000 lives. While shallow quakes tend to be more damaging given the closer proximity of their seismic waves to the surface, this earthquake struck in a less densely populated area.

In the Grand’Anse, Nippes and Sud departments, dozens of public buildings—hospitals, schools, hotels, churches and businesses—suffered significant structural damage or have collapsed. At least 37,310 homes are known to have been destroyed. Landslides and damaged bridges have made roads impassable which, along with the deteriorating security, complicates the transport of critical relief supplies. Communications remain interrupted due to damaged infrastructure or high demand. In addition, Tropical Storm Grace passed over southern Haiti on August 16, causing additional hazards and complicating the search and rescue efforts. The Haitian government has issued a state of emergency.

Compounding Crises

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the displacement of thousands of families risks the spread of infection at a time when local health systems are already struggling to treat the wounded. Of grave concern is the damage to hospitals, and water and sanitation infrastructure.

Just prior to this crisis, people in Haiti had been dealing with increasingly limited access to nutritious food and clean water due to drought, as well as political and economic instability. The security situation was deteriorating even before the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse at his home in Port-au-Prince in early July. In early June, the capital saw a significant increase in gang violence that resulted in the displacement of an estimated 19,000 people, who remain in camps in and around Port-au-Prince. Throughout Haiti, recent tensions and shootings in Port-au-Prince coupled with ongoing gang violence have hindered transportation. Food prices have risen sharply and the supply chain of goods like gasoline and diesel has stalled.

CRS and Church Response

CRS has a long history of programming in Grand Sud, with programs and offices in both Les Cayes in Sud department, and Jeremie in Grand’Anse department. Within 48 hours of the earthquake, CRS teams in Les Cayes distributed tarps, hygiene kits and kitchen sets for 200 families.

CRS is preparing to help families affected by the earthquake meet their immediate needs for relief and long-term recovery. The initial phase of our comprehensive, holistic response will focus on emergency support for shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene. These efforts will transition into a robust recovery program to repair and rebuild homes and infrastructure, and restore livelihoods. Care for people’s emotional well-being will be woven in, especially for families dealing with distress, grief and trauma.


Priority Areas

  • Haitians walk over rubble to survey earthquake damage to buildings
    Emergency basic needs via direct distribution or cash assistance.
    • Food.
    • Household supplies and hygiene items.
  • Shelter relief and recovery.
    • Emergency shelter materials, including tarps and corrugated iron sheeting.
    • Training of construction workers on safe building practices.
    • Repair or rebuilding of homes, or transitional shelter for the most vulnerable families.
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene.
    • Provision of hygiene supply kits with a focus on COVID-19 prevention.
    • Access to potable water and sanitation.
    • Restoration or rehabilitation of damaged water infrastructure.
  • Livelihoods.
    • Support livelihood restoration.
    • Training and investment to restore livelihood activities and launch new

income-generating activities where necessary.

  • Prioritize local resources in relief and recovery efforts and market-based

responses when possible.

  • Protection and psychosocial support.
    • Psychosocial first aid for front-line workers, CRS and partner staff, and program

participants and communities.

  • Family-based child protection and efforts to prevent separation of vulnerable families.
  • Outreach and support for women, especially given the increase in gender-based violence.
  • Mainstreaming protection efforts for the most vulnerable in all aspects of programming.

In all these efforts, CRS will prioritize a market- based response—ensuring we support the recovery of the market and local economy by using local materials, repairing and restoring local infrastructure, and engaging local suppliers, distributors and vendors in the programs.

CRS hopes to raise $5 million for this emergency relief and recovery effort.





Essential COVID-19 Support for the Most Vulnerable

Because of Covid-19, millions of people have lost access to the money or credit needed to meet their basic needs. Furthermore, lockdowns created pressures and situations that have increased the risk of domestic violence. To address these needs, CRS is providing:

• Food assistance for extremely vulnerable families.

• Cash assistance or direct distributions for basic living supplies.

• Support for livelihoods and market recovery.

• At-home learning and development opportunities for children.

• Counseling sessions, conflict resolution and community support to address issues of grief, domestic violence, stigma or rising tensions.


Addressing the Long-term Impacts of the Pandemic

Food and Hunger:

A nurse checks the vitals of a patient at Bangalore’s St. Philomena’s Hospital. It is among the health facilities receiving medical supplies and support, such as personal protective equipment, from CRS.

Photo by Ramita Rathod for CRS/Caritas India


In India, as the country grapples with a second wave of COVID-19 that left health systems crumbling, experts are already calling for preparations for a third wave, which they predict will hit the country later this year. They have warned that children will face increased risks from a third wave. Long-term shocks to nutrition, indebtedness and education can be expected, especially for the younger population.

In Madagascar, serious food shortages in the south are the result of drought, poor harvests, and COVID-19-related price fluctuations and lost income. More than 1 million people in the deep south are experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity—and an estimated 14,000 people have reached the Catastrophic level of food insecurity, which is defined as “having an extreme lack of food and/or other basic needs even after full employment of coping strategies. Starvation, death, destitution and extremely acute malnutrition levels are evident.” This number is estimated to double from October to December 2021.

CRS is providing urgent food assistance in the form of 7,890 tons of food to 32,632 families and has supported the treatment of 7,469 malnourished children. CRS has also provided food assistance, seeds, cash transfers and agricultural support to vulnerable families, and repaired 13 water points to ensure access to water in the south.



In Yemen, an escalating humanitarian crisis is devastating the lives, health and stability of millions of people, with 80% of the population in urgent need of aid, including 2 million children suffering from acute malnutrition. Health systems have collapsed, along with access to clean water and sanitation, which has led to deadly cholera outbreaks and other diseases. An estimated 3.3 million people have been displaced, and more than twice that number have lost their livelihoods. These needs have been compounded by the COVID‑19 pandemic.


With Caritas Poland, CRS has supported six health facilitiesserving a total of 40,000 peopleto resume critical health care services amid the pandemic. Activities include: improving medical facilities’ water and sanitation infrastructure, as well as providing soap, disinfectants, gowns, uniforms, masks, gloves and waste management containers.

Photo courtesy of Caritas Poland. 


CRS has been working closely with local partners to provide vital water and sanitation support to prevent the spread of disease since the onset of the crisis. CRS is expanding programs with two partners in Yemen to address the diverse needs of people who face extreme hunger and hardship. CRS is working with Caritas Poland and Education for Employment to strengthen health systems, support youth livelihoods, rehabilitate water and sanitation infrastructure, and prevent the spread of COVID‑19. Programs are taking place in Sana’a and Aden governorates, and will ideally reach 200,000 people.

In Venezuela, CRS’ EMPOWER program supported cash and voucher assistance for 7,179 families from June 2020 through July 2021. Caritas Venezuela assessed the nutritional situation of 20,948 children under the age of 5 and 4,715 pregnant or nursing women in eight dioceses and 40 centers across the country. In the same period, Caritas Venezuela organized 1,010 community meals serving a total of 141,154 people. Caritas Venezuela’s medical team also attended to 53,549 people with medical treatment and 552 people received psychosocial support.


While necessary during the pandemic, restrictions on mobility and trade have had crushing effects on economies, businesses and incomes. Many people are losing their incomes—daily wage workers, drivers, rickshaw pullers, fishermen, street hawkers, small traders and tea sellers, as well as those working in companies and organizations. People are facing difficulties buying food, medicines, and hygiene materials due to lack of money.

In Bangladesh, migrant workers have started moving back to work places. Factories were operating at 50% capacity until the end of June. Night curfews have affected those working night shifts. Garment units had completely shut down and workers cited a 47% drop in weekly wages.[1] Women and younger workers have been disproportionately affected. Families are coping by having fewer meals, borrowing money and selling their possessions.


[1] Crushed in First Wave, Migrant Workers Have Few Jobs, Little Support Again. Shubham Kaushal, Vikas Kumar. 23 June 2021. Business Standard.

Caritas Bangladesh has distributed cash assistance to extremely vulnerable families, conducted awareness sessions in their existing programs that promote savings and internal lending communities, and linked members with government health facilities, distribution of masks, and dissemination of COVID-19 awareness messages.  


Maloncho fishes with her son in Munshiganj, Bangladesh, where monsoon rains flooded homes.  CRS and Caritas Bangladesh provided her and 5,250 families in the area with tarp, rope and shelter relief supplies.

Photo by Mahmud Rahman for CRS/Caritas Bangladesh 


In Cuba, the COVID-19 pandemic has further damaged the already deteriorating Cuban economy, with significant supply problems, a drop in foreign revenue associated with the tourism industry, and budget deficits. Current economic policy seeks to eliminate—to the extent possible—subsidies, entitlements and programs designed to redistribute income, based on the premise that the best way to eliminate vulnerability is to incorporate the workforce into employment. However, under this scenario, people unable to work, including the elderly population, are left with no support. High migration rates also contribute to the growing number of older people in need of care. An estimated 15% of the elderly live alone. Even subsidized food assistance that is targeted to vulnerable populations is out of reach for many. 

In Havana, CRS supports Caritas Cuba to provide food to senior citizens.

Photo by Oscar Leiva/Silverlight for CRS


CRS partner Caritas Cuba is providing food, hygiene supplies, laundry service, cash assistance and other living essentials to 6,600 people across 11 dioceses. We are also making every effort to bring in medical supplies and personal protective equipment in coordination with the ministry of public health, given the extreme lack of supplies in health facilities. CRS also supports Caritas Cuba to establish savings and internal lending communities as a way to help vulnerable families access cash for livelihoods, build social networks and receive loans for emergency needs.     


Social Impact and Protection:

Many people have symptoms but are reluctant to be tested for COVID-19 because of the stigma. In many rural areas, when one family member tests positive for COVID-19, all community members, neighbors and friends avoid the family and even try to prohibit them from leaving their homes. In addition, people often prefer to go to local health practitioners to get immediate medicine instead of hospitals due to fear of getting tested for COVID-19.

In India, As COVID-19 spreads across the country, it leaves increasing numbers of vulnerable children in its wake. Families facing extreme economic loss might look to reduce their economic burden by considering child labor or early marriage—both of which are gateways for child trafficking. A large number of children are at risk of dropping out of school with no hope of going back, which will only further contribute to children being pushed into labor or early marriage. Additionally, an increasing number of orphaned children are at risk of entering child care institutions. Children who are already institutionalized are either being sent back home to potentially unsafe environments or residing in institutions that have yet to be upgraded for COVID-19 prevention. CRS is supporting our local partners to lead the emergency response efforts. We are providing them with technical assistance in program areas as well as support to manage financial resources and comply with donor, government and humanitarian standards.

In Indonesia, it has been noted in the local media that support systems are needed for people who go into self‑quarantine. No such system is in place in the community so far. People who are self-isolated are often unable to afford treatment or even proper nutrients or food to boost their immune systems. Hospitals are struggling to cope and have experienced a disruption of oxygen supply. Until June 2021, CRS has distributed cash assistance to approximately 8,566 refugees who are living independently in Jakarta’s surrounding areas to help them cope with the impact of the pandemic. CRS has also supported virtual trainings, meetings and webinars with its staff and partners, including community and local government workers.

In Ecuador, through CRS’ EMPOWER program, Caritas Ecuador is expanding its ongoing emergency response for vulnerable women, including gender-based violence survivors, with tailored livelihoods assistance.



In Uganda, in 2020 CRS sought to increase hospital capacity in the Kampala metropolitan area by transforming Namboole Stadium into a treatment center for mild to moderate cases. The National Task Force, supported by the Center for Disease Control, aims to expand Namboole Stadium into a central operations center for patient care. All patients and ambulances will converge there, and a triage center will stabilize the most critical, while others will be dispersed to Mulago, Entebbe or Naguru, where ICU care will be prioritized. CRS will continue its support through the establishment of a large triage center, emergency room infrastructure, staff housing and other urgent infrastructure support to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.

Building on experience from the conversion of Namboole Stadium to a non-traditional isolation center and leveraging a team of engineers through existing emergency housing, school construction and sanitation projects, CRS will contribute to isolation and quarantine design, assessment and operations management. This will provide a rapid emergency revitalization of infrastructure for other districts to isolate and provide care to moderate cases. This includes using temporary structures such as tent extensions as well as more permanent renovations.


CRS and our partners are providing critical medical supplies and hospital support.

Photo by Ramita Rathod for CRS/Caritas India


In India, CRS’ collaboration with the National Health Mission and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in Uttar Pradesh is reaching 8,000 supervisors of Accredited Social Health Activists, or ASHAs, with our digital health model that provides supportive supervision to approximately 150,000 ASHA workers. These efforts will potentially improve the health outcomes for 174.6 million people. Building local leadership capacity is central to the mission and work of CRS, and is critical as we collaborate with Caritas India, the Catholic Health Association of India, or CHAI, and government partners. CHAI is the second largest health care provider in India after the government. Its network of 3,572 hospitals, health clinics, other member institutions—as well as its 76,000 medical professionals—serves at least 21 million patients annually. Most of these patients are from scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other historically marginalized and underserved communities bearing the disproportionate brunt of the pandemic’s impact. CHAI has been rendering critical health care services for 75 years. To date, CHAI member institutions have received little to none of the pledged international in-kind aid, much of which is stuck at airports or at other points along the supply chain.   

CRS aims to support 71 million people in India— including 20,000 front-line health care workers and 35,000 community health workers and volunteers.

On FacebookCRS is preparing to run global social and behavior change campaigns to reduce vaccine hesitancy and address the spread of COVID-19 misinformation. In partnership with Facebook, CRS will launch the campaigns on the social media platform in 19 countries, targeting key demographics with locally developed messages and ads. CRS joins several other global organizations partnering with Facebook to maximize the reach of the platform and to help slow the spread of the disease

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