Global Emergency Update January 2023

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Global Emergency Update: 2023 Urgent Priorities

Catholic Relief Services is pleased to share our perspective as we anticipate the most urgent humanitarian needs—and opportunities for global impact—in 2023. Our work is possible thanks to the generous support of private and public donors, the dedication of our local partners and the unwavering presence of Caritas and the Catholic Church.


woman packs supplies in Ukraine.

At Baidoa District Hospital in Somalia, a doctor measures a baby’s arm circumference to determine if she is malnourished. Young children, in particular, are at risk of starvation as Somalia faces an extreme hunger crisis.

Photo by Omar Faruk for CRS

Communities across the world are experiencing life‑threatening levels of hunger and malnutrition on an unprecedented scale. Families are struggling to meet their food needs due to the effects of conflict, displacement, climate change, COVID‑19 and rising costs. Food inflation has put people under tremendous strain, while supply chain interruptions have slowed humanitarian operations and disrupted local and regional markets.

CRS and our partners are responding across the world, including in drought‑stricken East Africa where 1.4 million children under age 5 face acute malnutrition and where, without immediate treatment, nearly 330,000 children are at risk of dying.

1.4 million children under age 5 face acute malnutrition in East Africa. Without immediate treatment, nearly 330,000 children are at risk of dying.

The following are pressing emergencies in need of urgent support:

  • East Africa: Drought-stricken parts of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia are bracing for an unprecedented fifth consecutive failed rainy season as they endure the worst drought in 40 years. The United Nations has warned of famine in Somalia unless dramatic steps are taken. Southern Somalia has seen a drastic rise in acute malnutrition in children, and in child and adult deaths. The crisis has led to massive displacement and heightened conflict around land tenure and resources. In Ethiopia, humanitarian needs have escalated due to devastating conflict and displacement in the north and drought in the south and east.
  • The Sahel: Sharply worsening conflict in the central Sahel, the mass displacement it has caused, and a new global hunger crisis have created a humanitarian catastrophe in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
  • Across the world: CRS is collaborating with our partners on a comprehensive response to meet immediate needs, while ramping up programming to strengthen resilience. We recognize the urgent need to prevent famine and the devastation of livelihoods. It is likely that the underlying drivers of food insecurity will lead to impacts that could last months and even years. Countries will be affected at different times and in different ways. For example, higher fertilizer costs driven by shortages in parts of Africa will affect yields for the 2023 harvest. Our response prioritizes local approaches that enhance social cohesion and a community’s ability to respond to future crises.
woman packs supplies in Ukraine.

A doctor at a clinic in Baidoa in southwestern Somalia examines a malnourished baby in urgent need of supplementary nutrition and care. CRS supports health care and nutrition services and prioritizes local approaches that enhance social cohesion and build community resilience.

Photo by Omar Faruk for CRS

Priority efforts are designed so that:

  • Vulnerable people have sufficient, equitable access to quality, nutritious food.
  • Vulnerable groups have enough nutrition for their bodies to absorb the food they eat.
  • From producer to consumer, global and local food systems—including crop and livestock production, food processing, transportation, functioning markets and security—enable sustainable access to nutritious food. CRS programming will be tailored to the local context and address immediate and long‑term needs through comprehensive support including food and living supplies; medical assistance; water, sanitation and hygiene; and livelihoods and agriculture support.
“It has hardly rained for four years and, when it has rained, it’s not enough to grow crops. Over 70% of the livestock in this area have died, including the camels. We are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.”

Rebecca Hallam
CRS’ country representative for Kenya and Somalia


woman packs supplies in Ukraine.

This Honduran refugee couple at the Misión Evangélica Roca de Salvación shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, await the opportunity to cross into the United States, where their young children are staying with relatives.

Photo by Oscar Leiva/Silverlight for CRS

Across Central and South America, rising numbers of families are fleeing their homes out of fear and desperation. In Central America—particularly Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala—gang violence and organized crime have caused tens of thousands of families to flee north since 2018. Families are reeling from chronic poverty, lack of job opportunities and failed harvests. Thousands of people have crossed from Guatemala into Mexico, seeking shelter and asylum, humanitarian visas or transit permits to reach the U.S. border. Most travel with limited access to food, water and safe shelter—and lack accurate, trusted information.

CRS is working across the region with our Catholic partners to help displaced people find the resources to stay in their countries of origin, or to access relief and safety in countries of refuge. Local faith‑based shelters are working tirelessly to protect and promote the dignity of vulnerable people traveling on migrant routes.

Shelters offer migrants a place to sleep, bathe, eat and receive medical care and other services by:

  • Providing hot meals, safe shelter, hygiene and living supplies, legal assistance, health care, and counseling for grief, distress and trauma.
  • Providing emergency relief to meet the needs of returned migrants with limited belongings.

CRS supports our partners by:

  • Strengthening capacity for operations, human resources, finance, administration, logistics, governance and technical programming.
  • Providing training and field visits that enable partners to share technical guidance and best practices, and to develop policies and procedures.
  • Collaborating on an initiative that helps migrants stay in their communities and prevents forced migration.


Venezuela has experienced social and economic crises for years. Currently, more than 90% of its population lives below the poverty line and thousands of children are malnourished. The health system is collapsing, and the country has the third‑highest food inflation in the world. More than 5.6 million Venezuelans have fled to neighboring countries. In Venezuela and across the region, our Caritas partners—with CRS accompaniment and technical support—are providing vital assistance. This has included evaluating the nutritional status of 43,676 children under age 5, supporting 9,000 families with cash assistance, and providing medical treatment for 88,719 people at Caritas centers. CRS is expanding this vital support given the heightened, changing needs, to ensure supplies and equipment for hospitals; food and medicine for malnourished children and pregnant or new mothers; food and support for the homeless; safe shelter for refugees and those in transit; and cash assistance.

90% of Venezuela’s population lives below the poverty line and thousands of children are malnourished.


woman packs supplies in Ukraine.

Before receiving CRS assistance to buy food, clothing and other critical items, Islam and Diana and their two children were facing winter without an income.

Photo by Mohamed Reefi for CRS

The Gaza Strip is home to an estimated 2 million people. Decades of intermittent armed conflict coupled with a comprehensive blockade have had a lasting and profound impact on the people of Gaza and have inhibited lasting recovery. COVID‑19 exacerbated an already fragile economy, and the result is a multidimensional humanitarian crisis across Gaza.

“I used some of the money to buy winter clothes for my children. The assistance came from heaven and saved me.”

a father in North Gaza

After a period of relative calm, conflict in May 2021 and August 2022 plunged Gaza back into instability, with hundreds of people killed and an estimated 58,000 homes damaged or destroyed. Since 2014, most Gazans have had their homes destroyed or damaged. The psychological impact of decades of conflict has been unrelenting. Since 2014, CRS has provided a comprehensive package of assistance to conflict‑affected families in Gaza that includes food and essential living supplies, shelter, counseling and other support. CRS is committed to assisting Gazan families at this time of dire need, prioritizing safe, dignified shelter as well as food and living supplies, including cash assistance to access these; building critical life skills among adolescents; and strengthening support for caregivers.

woman packs supplies in Ukraine.

Islam and Diana benefit from assistance, provided by CRS and funded by USAID, that enables them to buy food and essential household items.

Photo by Mohamed Reefi for CRS


A humanitarian crisis has devastated the lives of families across Yemen as an eight‑year war has been waged between Houthi rebels and forces loyal to the government, backed by a Saudi Arabia‑led coalition. With a blockade and insecurity severely limiting people’s access to food or income, 80% of the population is 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.
CRS provides training for young Yemenis to work in understaffed health facilities.

CRS has been working closely with local partners in Yemen since the onset of the crisis to provide vital water and sanitation support to prevent the spread of disease. The needs have been compounded by the COVID‑19 pandemic, especially in high‑risk communities with limited access to health care and clean water. CRS is expanding emergency programming to provide training for young Yemenis to work in understaffed heath facilities; strengthen health systems and water and sanitation infrastructure; and provide vulnerable communities with critical hygiene supplies and information to prevent the spread of COVID‑19. This year, CRS was officially registered to operate in the country, which will help our programs and support our partners to scale up.


woman packs supplies in Ukraine.

An estimated 7.9 million people have been displaced by the floods in Pakistan.

Photo courtesy of Caritas Pakistan

Across Pakistan, more than 33 million people have been affected by monsoon rains and floods. An estimated 7.9 million people are displaced and in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, primarily in Sindh and Balochistan provinces. A reported 1,698 people died in the flooding and another 12,865 people were injured.

8,123 miles of roads and 410 bridges need significant repair.

The devastation is extensive: 2 million houses have been damaged, 89% of them in Sindh alone; 1.1 million livestock have died; and 410 bridges and 8,123 miles of roads need significant repair. With more than 24,000 schools damaged or destroyed, education has been interrupted for an estimated 3.5 million children. At least 6 million people are living in relief camps, mostly in Sindh. With the devastating impact of flooding, the country now faces an unprecedented food security crisis. CRS is supporting our partners to provide immediate assistance, including emergency shelter and living supplies, cash assistance, and restored water, sanitation and hygiene. CRS will support long‑term recovery in priority areas in coordination with local government, Caritas Pakistan, Islamic Relief Pakistan and other partners.


Over the past five years, Bangladesh has become home to the world’s largest refugee settlement. In August 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees fled Myanmar for neighboring Bangladesh, expanding the refugee population there to nearly 1 million. They fled after decades of discrimination and repression under successive governments in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. More than 600,000 Rohingya now live at the Kutupalong-Balukhali Expansion Site.

141,700 Rohingya refugees received food, shelter, water and sanitation, health care and counseling through CRS and Caritas programming.

In 2022, CRS and Caritas worked closely with the government of Bangladesh, local communities and other partners to provide food, shelter, water and sanitation services, health care, counseling and other support and protection services to more than 141,700 Rohingya refugees. Our support has evolved with the changing context and needs of families—from urgent food, water and shelter to long-term support. Our focus now is on upholding the dignity of families, ensuring they are protected from harm, can heal from grief, stress and trauma, and are ready to return to Myanmar should conditions improve.

CRS engages with Rohingya refugees and local host communities to determine support priorities. Critical work includes the building of safe homes and communities; protection, counseling and social services for the most vulnerable people; informal education for children, and recreation and youth programming; and livelihoods activities.


girls in school in lebanon.

CRS partners with the Good Shepherd Sisters to provide education to vulnerable families in informal settlements in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.

Photo by Ismail Ferdous/CRS

More than a decade since the civil war in Syria began, children’s lives remain affected. Since 2012, the conflict has uprooted more than half of Syria’s population and forced 5.6 million Syrians to flee to neighboring countries.

While some areas in Syria are now stable, living conditions and opportunities are a challenge. For children, the impact of war affects all aspects of their lives—their family unit, their sense of safety, their access to learning and their development of life skills to cope and prosper as adults. Education plays a vital role in providing structure, healing and a sense of normalcy for children.

CRS and our partners in Lebanon provide comprehensive support for communities and families, including education, counseling and care for children. Priorities include improvements to public and private classrooms, kindergarten classes, tutoring to prevent dropping out, safe transportation, healthy snacks, parent-teacher meetings, training for teachers and other staff members, and support for parents and caregivers


family outside their home in iran

CRS supports the shelter needs of internally displaced people returning to their homes in Iraq.

Photo by Hawre Khalid for CRS

Since the launch of our 10‑year strategic Building Safe, Dignified Homes and Communities platform in 2020, CRS has piloted and expanded emergency programming for people displaced by crisis, including natural disasters, conflict and climate change. We recognize that a safe home is the starting point for recovery. The loss of a home can mean separation from loved ones and support networks, and limited access to food, water, health and social services, education and livelihood options. More than 80 million people worldwide have been displaced due to conflict.

A safe home is the starting point for recovery.

CRS is building on decades of experience to expand an approach to emergency shelter that goes beyond the physical structure to building a foundation for holistic recovery. This is grounded in our commitment to integral human development. For example, as we help build safe homes and living environments for families and communities displaced by crisis, we integrate efforts to help them prepare for crises before they strike; address issues of safety and social cohesion; ensure access to clean water; strengthen the emergency response capacity of local institutions; and promote durable solutions relevant to the local context.

Our strategy aims to expand direct assistance for 1.5 million people in immediate need. More broadly, it also extends our impact to assist 8.5 million more people through systems-level change. This will be achieved by influencing key stakeholders to adopt safe and dignified approaches to rebuilding homes and communities in the aftermath of emergencies. Collectively, we plan for these efforts to benefit 10 million people by 2030. Our approach is replicable and adaptable to local contexts for all people in tremendous need.

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