Global Emergency Update May 2024

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Global Emergency Update CRS RESPONSE IN FRAGILE AND CONFLICT-AFFECTED REGIONS

This is the latest report on Catholic Relief Services’ ongoing emergency response and recovery activities around the world. Our work is possible thanks to the generous support of private and public donors, the dedication of local partners, and the unwavering presence of Caritas and the local Catholic Church.

Across the world, people are facing violent conflict and natural disasters. Those who are most vulnerable live in fragile environments where necessities like clean water and shelter are in constant jeopardy as crises worsen. Consider Haiti, Ukraine, the Holy Land, Sudan and Venezuela—all places that continue to face urgent development needs. It can seem that efficient, accountable or impactful assistance would be impossible to deliver. But these are the very places—the specific contexts—where Catholic Relief Services and our partners are ever present, no matter how challenging the circumstances.

CRS is able to be present, and to pivot and expand operations as needed because we are already working with the Church and local partners in most areas. This means that we have the capacity and experience to work in environments where the risks are layered with issues of security, limited access to communities in need, complex regulations, operational constraints, and extremely vulnerable populations reliant on humanitarian assistance to survive.

The core mission of CRS’ work in fragile and conflict-affected regions is to save lives, strengthen and restore livelihoods, and support people’s recovery and long-term stability. Across the 19 countries identified by the World Bank Group as fragile conflict countries, CRS managed humanitarian and development projects that provided services to a total of 142 million program participants in fiscal year 2023. In these countries, CRS and our partners carry out programming in hard-to-reach areas where security issues are a frequent concern.

LONG-STANDING PARTNERSHIP AND PRESENCE

Through our established offices and long-standing presence and partnerships in many areas, CRS has built trust with communities and we benefit from humanitarian access in challenging contexts. We leverage working with our Church partners and local organizations. Such relationships enable CRS to act quickly in times of crisis, and to understand social and conflict dynamics for engaging appropriately and operating safely and effectively. CRS has operated in fragile contexts for more than 80 years. Our presence on the ground and strong partner networks enable humanitarian access and—with our robust hiring, procurement and financial systems—allow us to scale up and reach some of the world’s most remote areas with impact.

While CRS works in 20 countries that are considered fragile and conflict-affected, the following are just a few highlights of our emergency response efforts around the world.

HAITI

Protests and gang activity have escalated in and around Port-au-Prince, blocking roads, increasing insecurity, restricting travel and leading to the resignation of the Haitian prime minister in March 2024. According to the United Nations,
2.7 million people in Haiti are living in areas controlled or under the influence of armed groups and 96% of internal displacement is due to violence. At least 362,000 people have been displaced, of whom 89,000 are seeking refuge at sites across the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area.

Families across Haiti have been weathering a growing humanitarian crisis, with at least 5 million people facing food insecurity. In Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas, CRS is providing cash assistance to help displaced families relocate to safer areas, and improving water, sanitation and hygiene services. In areas outside the capital, CRS and our partners are providing food, shelter and water services; agriculture activities to improve the production of essential crops; voucher and cash assistance; support for caregivers and children; entrepreneur trainings; farmer learning groups; and ongoing recovery efforts following the 2021 earthquake.

HOLY LAND

A humanitarian crisis continues to escalate across the Holy Land, with a total siege on Gaza following an unprecedented attack on Israel on October 7. Since the start of these tragic events, Gaza has become one of the world's most dangerous places for civilians. On May 11, the Israeli military ordered the immediate evacuation of several neighborhoods in Rafah in southern Gaza. These areas include densely crowded neighborhoods, a hospital and refugee camps in a city where
1.4 million Gazans had fled in recent months—after previously being forced to evacuate from their homes in other areas. More than 300,000 people evacuated in a span of days from parts of Rafah, leading CRS teams in Gaza and the region to adapt emergency programming and logistics to meet the escalating needs facing families, including CRS staff members.

Compounding the risks is closure of the Rafah Crossing and Kerem Shalom, the border crossing between southern Gaza and Israel. This has severed access to fuel, supplies and the movement of humanitarian staff. The recent turn of events is pushing families to the edge of survival. For more than seven months, they have faced daily bombings, lived in uncertainty about their options, taken all measures to protect themselves with no safe haven, and endured loss of loved ones and assets. More than 34,600 people have been killed since October.

CRS’ Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza country program is made up of 83 staff members—including 44 in Gaza—two offices, and multiple distribution points. CRS teams have been delivering a range of lifesaving assistance that, since October, has supported 600,000 people. Given the evolving nature of this emergency, CRS will adapt programming to the changing contexts and needs.

We continue to maintain relief distribution points outside the evacuation zone and manage operations from a second office in Deir al-Balah. However, efforts are interrupted by limited access of supplies and fuel. In Jordan and Egypt, CRS and our partners continue to manage logistics and operations with supplies at the ready when the borders reopen. Additionally, in Lebanon, CRS is supporting Caritas Lebanon to meet the needs of a growing humanitarian emergency along the southern border.

UKRAINE

In February of 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, causing massive destruction and loss, separating families and uprooting millions of people from their homes. Over the past two years, CRS has worked with Caritas and other partners across Ukraine and the region to provide a range of support to meet people’s urgent needs for food, shelter, living supplies, medical care and counseling—as well as to recover, heal and rebuild their lives. We continue to support families who have returned home, as well as those who are internally displaced or living as refugees—helping them find stability and, in some cases, build new lives.

The war continues to drive humanitarian needs in Ukraine, particularly among people who remain in communities close to the front line. Since 2022, more than 6 million people have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries, while 3.6 million remain internally displaced. Even now, the security situation has deteriorated in the eastern part of the country.

CRS continues to work closely with Caritas partners in the region. Even at the onset of the conflict—when Caritas staff members were directly affected and uprooted from their homes and loved ones—they provided food, shelter, counseling and medical assistance. Throughout the past two years, CRS has been able to support our partners in their expanded reach to care for people in need. CRS support is taking place in Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria, Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Slovakia, Greece, Hungary, Romania and Georgia.

In eastern Ukraine, we’ve worked closely with our Caritas partners and other organizations to help families return home. Priorities across Ukraine have included home repair, safe shelter, cash assistance, children’s well-being, and opportunities for income generation. Our support for Ukrainians is wide-ranging and tailored for the local context. An emphasis has been on safe, dignified accommodation—with new efforts to reach 15,000 people. As part of a new program, our shelter efforts will provide access to basic hygiene kits, protection services, and temporary employment opportunities.

In partnership with Caritas Ukraine, we have expanded to support agricultural livelihoods for hundreds of farming families, who receive cash assistance to restart or continue their agricultural production so they can have food security during wartime. With Caritas Spes Ukraine, we have supported the provision of business grants to small entrepreneurs, and individual professional trainings and career support. As the hostilities continued to escalate, we are seeing an increasing number of people arrive at the CRS-funded Crisis Center project in Kharkiv seeking social services. To date, we have supported 200 adults with individual and group counseling sessions, and 4,500 people with various protection services.


A Commitment to Safe and Dignified Programming

In our work, CRS prioritizes people’s safety and dignity, meaningful access, accountability, and participation. CRS uses robust response mechanisms in every program, with clear referral pathways for staff and partners. We integrate community-based, person-centered mental health and counseling support in a range of programming and contexts. In areas of ongoing conflict, our activities are tailored for the unique needs of front-line workers, families—including children and caregivers—and community leaders. We integrate this support through education, social services and economic opportunities. For victims of violence who are suffering from trauma, we provide holistic care to support their healing on a personal level as well as within and across their communities.


AFGHANISTAN

Afghanistan is managing a crisis after the Pakistan government announced in October 2023 that it will deport people without documentation. The significant influx of people returning to Afghanistan has implications for both immediate and longer-term needs. Most urgently, they require food, counseling support and livelihoods recovery. Many returnees have no access to land or resources to support their livelihoods but have the capacities and skills for work if provided with adequate opportunities and entrepreneurship support. As the returned families settle in local communities, they are encountering the impacts of years of drought and strained resources. Families who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods—which include most families in Afghanistan—struggle to meet their food and income needs.

CRS is supporting returnees and host communities with food assistance; access to safe water and hygiene and sanitation; and livelihoods recovery and development. We are integrating psychological first aid in our efforts, given the difficult journey and trauma many families are facing, and ensuring they have a decisive role and voice in their assistance, recovery and development. At the same time, CRS continues our recovery efforts following a series of earthquakes in October. CRS is providing a range of assistance, including cash assistance, agriculture and livelihoods support, water and sanitation, and winter and shelter supplies.

SUDAN

On April 15, 2023, armed conflict erupted across Sudan, with fighting concentrated in the capital, Khartoum, and in cities across Darfur and Kordofan states. More than 7 million people have been forcibly displaced in the eight months since the Sudan conflict started, including more than 5.7 million displaced within Sudan and 1.4 million seeking refuge across the border in neighboring Egypt, Chad, South Sudan, Ethiopia, the Central African Republic and Libya. More than 14 million children in Sudan require lifesaving assistance, the highest recorded number in the country’s history. The conflict has taken a heavy toll on infrastructure and limited people’s access to water, health care, and other goods and services. Many farmers have been unable to access their land, seeds and tools for cultivation. Concerns are high that this season’s harvests might fail.

west Darfur

In June 2023, when fighting for the control of West Darfur intensified, these women were forced to flee with their children, trekking for days to reach Eastern Chad. They and 1,500 other families in different resettlement areas along the border received pots, buckets, mosquito nets, blankets, tarps, cooking oil, salt, beans and millet.

Photo by Mabel Chenjoh/CRS

Despite significant operational challenges, CRS continues to provide critical humanitarian assistance to vulnerable communities across the greater Darfur region. From October through December 2023, CRS helped nearly 300,000 people with food, health care, nutrition, child protection, education, social cohesion, livelihoods, water, sanitation and hygiene. Additionally, and in collaboration with the World Food Program, CRS supported nearly 200,000 people in West and Central Darfur with the distribution of more than 2,000 tons of food. The rations included sorghum, vegetable oil, lentils and supplementary feeding supplies for malnourished children, covering one to two months of household food needs.

CRS is working with our partners to provide relief to Sudanese refugees in Egypt, Chad and South Sudan. Priorities include food; cash assistance; income generating activities; agricultural supplies and tools; shelter and living supplies; water, sanitation and hygiene; health and nutrition support; facilitation of social cohesion and peacebuilding activities; and emotional care and counseling support.

VENEZUELA

The humanitarian situation in Venezuela remains dire, with millions of people facing acute shortages of food, medicine, and basic services. The economic and political crisis has driven more than 5.6 million Venezuelans to seek refuge in neighboring countries and beyond. CRS and our partners have been supporting the Church's response to the needs of the most vulnerable populations in Venezuela and the region.

CRS and our partner Caritas Venezuela have been providing cash assistance to 3,800 households in seven dioceses since December 2022, with the goal of improving the food security and livelihoods of vulnerable families. In September 2023, Caritas Internationalis launched an initiative to address the critical humanitarian needs in Venezuela. It covers health, nutrition, food security, livelihoods, and water, sanitation and hygiene in eight dioceses, reaching 43,000 people. CRS supports this initiative through a project that has enabled Caritas Venezuela to conduct nutrition assessments for 5,134 children under age 5, with 48% receiving nutritional support.

CRS is also supporting Caritas Venezuela to design a livelihoods strategy to standardize the approach to economic recovery programming. Based on this strategy, an 18-month livelihoods project began in March 2024. It will build on lessons learned from a previous pilot project and aims to expand the scope of livelihood interventions to urban and rural communities in multiple dioceses.

HOW CRS WORKS IN FRAGILE AND CONFLICT-AFFECTED REGIONS

CRS is able to work extensively and effectively to meet both urgent and long-term needs in fragile and conflict contexts because of the following efforts and initiatives.

ENGAGEMENT WITH LOCAL LEADERSHIP AND LOCAL SYSTEMS

In the absence of a functioning and accountable government, CRS works with the structures that are available, making sure to take appropriate risk mitigation measures. For example, through CRS’ response to the gobal food crisis from 2022 to the present, CRS has invested in both responding to immediate needs of people facing acute food insecurity as well as mitigating its root causes by working with appropriate local systems—including civil society, private sector actors, government or social services—in fragile settings for longer-term impact, sustainability and scale.

mother feeds infant in Nigeria

IIn Nigeria’s conflict-affected Borno State, a mother feeds her infant son a therapeutic meal made of grains and soybeans.

Photo by Radeno Haniel for CRS

SOCIAL COHESION PROGRAMMING

Social cohesion programming is a critical element of building resilience in fragile contexts. Improving mutual trust and mitigating conflict among identity groups leads to heightened cooperation. In turn, this ability to cooperate enables collaboration on mutually beneficial recovery or development priorities. This is particularly important when managing natural resources or alleviating tensions between refugees or internally displaced people and host communities. Social cohesion programming can yield improvements in the responsiveness of local leaders to citizen needs. CRS has extensive experience integrating social cohesion strengthening approaches with humanitarian and development programming, using a variety of adaptable tools and methodologies.

MARKET-LED LOCAL SOLUTIONS BASED ON COMMUNITY NEEDS

Under our guiding principles, CRS follows the tenet of subsidiarity: A higher level of government—or organization—should not perform any function or duty that can be handled more effectively at a lower level by people who are closer to the problem and have a better understanding of the issue. As part of our mandate to subsidiarity, CRS programs employ participatory approaches to understanding needs and designing responses that meet the needs of a diversity of people. We prioritize approaches for humanitarian delivery that are market-based and, in longer-term development contexts, aim for market systems development and transformation.

CREATING SHARED VALUE WITH THE PRIVATE SECTOR

CRS recognizes the potential of mutually beneficial outcomes for both the private sector and communities if we structure and run programing well. Therefore, CRS pursues development using conflict-sensitive market-based approaches in partnership with the private sector, governments, communities, and other relevant and appropriate stakeholders. CRS has invested in working with and through private sector and other local systems as a priority where feasible and appropriate. Our approach to market systems development is reflected in our efforts in co-creating solutions with private sector actors that can achieve scale and sustainability, even in difficult fragile contexts.

FLEXIBILITY AND ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT

CRS operations in fragile contexts are designed to be agile and flexible. To the extent possible, CRS and our partners incorporate contingency planning into our project design. We use robust market data, context and program monitoring, and participant feedback to identify trends that require program adjustments during implementation.

ANTICIPATORY ACTION

CRS is building our capacity to understand risks and implement actions before a crisis occurs, thus mitigating impact on the most vulnerable people. CRS has anticipatory action programming in 10 countries, including the Central African Republic, Ethiopia and Haiti. We are exploring new anticipatory action programming in another 10 countries. CRS considers this programming as part of an overall disaster management cycle with intentional linkages to our disaster risk reduction and resiliency programming. We prioritize locally led anticipatory action approaches with partners and use multi-purpose cash assistance as a primary action.


Recent Global Emergency Updates

April 2024

Global Emergency Update April 2024 This is the latest report on Catholic Relief Services’ ongoing emergency response and recovery activities around the world. Our work is possible thanks to the generous support of private and public donors, the dedication of local partners, and the unwavering presence of Caritas and the local Catholic Church.

March 2024

Global Food CrisisCRS has identified 25 priority countries that are affected by high levels of acute food insecurity and malnutrition due to combinations of these drivers, which are expected to continue through 2024. Areas of urgent concern include East Africa and the Sahel, as well as Central America, Southern Africa and, more recently, Gaza.

February 2024

Ukraine War: Two Years of Emergency Relief and RecoveryIn February of 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, causing massive destruction and loss, separating families and uprooting millions of people from their homes. Over the past two years, Catholic Relief Services has worked with Caritas and other partners across Ukraine and the region to provide a range of support to meet people’s urgent needs for food, shelter, living supplies, medical care and counseling.

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