Global Emergency Update: CRS Responds to Crises Around the World
Read 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 Internationalis and the local Catholic Church.
LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN
Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and El Salvador are recovering from devastating hurricanes that have raged across the region in recent weeks. Hurricane Fiona in the Dominican Republic, Hurricane Ian in Cuba, and Hurricane Julia in Guatemala and El Salvador brought heavy winds and rain that forced many people to flee their homes, and caused widespread devastation to houses, infrastructure, electrical and communication services, and agricultural land. Catholic Relief Services is supporting our Caritas partners to identify immediate needs and assist with response planning in all countries where Caritas has a presence in the affected areas. The staff and operations of our Caritas partners are also affected by communications and internet outages, as well as shortages of fuel and essential goods. Initial needs across the region include:
- Food assistance.
- Water, sanitation and hygiene supplies.
- Repair and rebuilding of damaged homes.
In the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Guatemala, supplies can be procured locally, but this is harder in Cuba where, even before the disaster, the island was experiencing shortages of food, hygiene supplies, medicine and fuel. Across all four countries, Caritas programs are serving the most vulnerable people, including older adults, people with disabilities, people who are ill, and children, adolescents and young people. The impact of the storms is expected to be especially severe in communities that were already struggling to meet their basic needs.
Support for Migrants
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—escalating gang violence and organized crime have caused tens of thousands of families to flee north since 2018. Families have also been reeling from chronic poverty, lack of job opportunities and failed harvests due to climate change. Thousands of people have crossed from Guatemala into Mexico seeking humanitarian visas, shelter, asylum or transit permits to reach the U.S. border. As they migrate, they travel with limited access to food, water and safe shelter, and also lack accurate, trusted sources of information.
"We found ourselves in a very bad situation because we had nowhere to go. Then our son fell ill. Thank God we have been treated well at the Scalabrini refugee shelter."
CRS is working across the region with our Catholic partners to help displaced people to either find opportunities and the means to stay in their countries of origin, or to access relief and safety in countries where they have taken refuge. Local faith-based shelters are working tirelessly to protect and promote the dignity of vulnerable people traveling on migrant routes. With limited financial resources, 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 who often have limited belongings.
CRS supports our partners by:
- Supporting them to strengthen their 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 develop policies and procedures.
- Working with them on an initiative to help migrants stay in their communities and prevent forced migrations.
Venezuela Crisis and Regional Refugee Support
Venezuela has experienced social and economic crises for years. Currently, more than 90% of its population live below the poverty line and thousands of children are experiencing malnutrition. The health system has all but collapsed and the country has the third-highest food inflation in the world. More than 5.6 million Venezuelans have fled to neighboring countries to provide for their families.
Caritas agencies are providing a range of vital services in Venezuela and across neighboring countries, including Brazil, Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, Chile and Peru. CRS works with local partners to lead the provision of critical services in their regions.
of Venezuela's population lives below the poverty line.
In Venezuela, CRS supported evaluations of the nutritional status of 43,676 children under the age of 5. Of those, 29,700 entered a Caritas nutritional program to receive weekly food rations. We also supported evaluations of the nutritional status of 7,651 pregnant or breastfeeding women. Of those, 2,677 received nutritional support. In addition, with CRS support, 9,000 families across 10 dioceses benefited from cash assistance for 18 months and 88,719 people received medical treatment from Caritas centers.
Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago
In these countries, CRS supported the provision of supplies and equipment to hospitals, the distribution of hygiene kits, mosquito nets, and water, sanitation and hygiene supplies to families, and the procurement and delivery of food and assistance to refugees who are homeless and living outside shelters. CRS also worked to ensure safe shelter for refugees and those in transit, and provided cash assistance, legal guidance and capacity support for partner organizations that deliver lifesaving services.
EUROPE, THE MIDDLE EAST AND CENTRAL ASIA
Millions of people across Afghanistan are suffering from the dire humanitarian consequences of a political and economic crisis following the August 2021 Taliban takeover, as well as the impacts of severe drought. These crises have exacerbated the deep wounds left by decades of violent conflict and widespread, chronic poverty and underdevelopment. More than 2.6 million Afghans have fled their country as refugees, and another 5.5 million people are internally displaced.
At the same time, with the end of longstanding conflict in the country, many displaced Afghan families are expected to return home. In 2021, an estimated 750,000 undocumented people returned from neighboring countries. This influx strained local health care and education systems as we well as other public services. Many areas previously inaccessible to humanitarian actors are extremely poor due to their isolation during years of insecurity. Moreover, the resources of Afghan families have been depleted by two consecutive years of drought. Water tables had not recovered from the 2018 drought and have now fallen even further. The health of livestock—a critical asset and source of income and nutrition for many families—is also deteriorating.
The war's end
has opened the possibility of reaching previously inaccessible communities with emergency assistance, recovery and long‑term development.
CRS has been serving Afghan families since 2002, with offices in five provinces and about 360 experienced Afghan staff members. We work with communities to deliver emergency relief, improved agricultural techniques, inclusive education and other life-enriching services to tens of thousands of families.
Afghanistan’s long conflict has left many families displaced and impoverished, but the war’s end has opened the possibility of reaching previously inaccessible communities with emergency assistance, recovery and long-term development. CRS operations have continued peacefully since the recent transition in government.
In November 2021, CRS began distributing emergency assistance to help families meet their critical needs, and has reached 45,500 people—7,500 families—to date across Herat, Ghor, Bamiyan and Daykundi provinces. CRS will complement this lifesaving assistance with measures to build the resilience of families and communities, and to mitigate negative coping strategies. Notably, CRS is supporting communities to cover the costs of planting crops and tending livestock. CRS has distributed quality wheat seed to families that could not buy good seed locally, and provided cash to families to cover fodder costs over the winter. CRS is working in 40 communities to facilitate access to clean drinking water by sinking wells with solar-powered pumps and gravity-fed supply systems.
CRS is also supporting multi-grade classrooms in the central highlands of Afghanistan. Depending on the class, they include grades 1 through 3 or 4 through 6. Despite a challenging year that included heightened conflict and instability, COVID-19 school closures, widespread food insecurity, and the collapse of the previous government, boys and girls in rural Afghanistan continued their education with CRS programs and were promoted to the next grade.
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 Baluchistan provinces. A reported 1,698 people have died in the flooding and another 12,865 people have been injured. The devastation is extensive: 2 million houses have been damaged, 89% of them in Sindh province 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.
houses have been damaged, 89% of them in Sindh Province alone.
While water has started receding in places, large areas of land remain inundated. For most affected communities, summer crops are largely destroyed and concerns over missing the next season are high, especially since access to farmland is now restricted. 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 has supported our partners to provide immediate assistance, including:
- Emergency shelter kits and kitchen sets for 11,000 families.
- Cash assistance for 13,000 families in northern Sindh and Balochistan provinces, and for 2,100 families to buy shelter repair materials in Jacobabad city.
- Water, sanitation and hygiene support, including the provision of hygiene kits, water supply, and emergency latrines, and the repair of damaged water infrastructure to 26,000 flood-affected families.
CRS will support long-term recovery in priority areas, in coordination with local government, Caritas Pakistan, Islamic Relief Pakistan and other partners.
As the war escalates in Ukraine, CRS and our Caritas partners continue to meet the changing needs of people in a fluid and challenging context. Since February, more than 7 million people have crossed the border into neighboring countries, while 6.6 million people remain displaced within Ukraine. The situation has become increasingly dire as Russian aggression has intensified. In the past several months, families have lost their homes and resources, and many have lost loved ones or witnessed loss of life. Poland continues to host the largest number of Ukrainian refugees, now surpassing 1.2 million.
Neighboring countries such as Moldova, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and others continue to host refugees at numbers nearing 100,000 per country. Many are especially concerned about facing the cold winter ahead with depleted resources. Since the start of the conflict, CRS and our partners have supported 3.7 million people within Ukraine, and hundreds of thousands of refugees in 10 neighboring countries. Our response is extremely far-reaching and continually evolving to meet pressing needs, and CRS is providing technical support and enabling direct assistance through several national and Church partners. Priorities for support within Ukraine and across the region, include:
- Cash assistance.
- Food assistance and hot meals.
- Safe shelter and hygiene supplies.
- Counseling and psychological care.
- Activities and care for children.
- Medical support.
- Consultations related to protection, psychological support, and information about social services for education, transportation and legal assistance.
As the crisis unfolds, we are working with Ukrainian families, communities and partners to address complex problems and respond to long-term needs. These efforts will likely focus on financial assistance to displaced families for rent, renovation of damaged homes and the purchase of necessities.
people have crossed the border into neighboring countries.
- Cash assistance for 72,000 refugees.
- Food and hygiene vouchers for more than 15,000 refugee families.
- More than 38,000 hot meals served at refugee centers.
- Cash assistance to 2,200 Moldovan residents to support refugee hosting.
- Six-month housing contracts for more than 500 refugees.
- An education project to support the well-being of refugee children and build social cohesion among Ukrainians and Moldovans.
- Two educational centers and three summer camps, which helped prepare refugee children for the new school year.
- Cash assistance for 2,460 refugee families.
- Support for unaccompanied children, and for the dioceses that care for them.
- Technical assistance to Caritas Poland for its efforts to provide cash, housing and integration services, such as employment, childcare and language classes, for 200,000 refugees.
The country’s dire economic situation is resulting in one of its worst humanitarian crises in decades, with 6.7 million people now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. This includes 2.4 million people already living below the poverty line who are among the most affected by the loss of livelihoods, food shortages and spiraling cost of essential items. The situation was triggered by an economic collapse brought about by years of dwindling foreign currency, compounded by COVID-19 and the loss of tourism revenue.
In May, Sri Lanka defaulted on its international debt for the first time ever. In June, the United Nations warned of an impending humanitarian crisis. By July, food price inflation, worsened by the war in Ukraine, had reached 81%, according to the U.N.’s human rights office.
CRS is working closely with Caritas Sri Lanka on programs to support families affected by the economic downturn. CRS has supported Caritas Sri Lanka and its diocesan network to identify families especially in need of support across the country. To date, CRS, Caritas Sri Lanka and the Missionaries of Charity have supported 3,300 families with food rations across the districts of Colombo, Kandy, Trincomalee, Galle, Mannar, Kurunegala and Jaffna, targeting those in greatest need in both urban and rural areas. With the situation continuing to deteriorate, CRS and our partners will expand access to food and nutrition support for children, and pregnant and breastfeeding women, and support small farmers to restore their agricultural production.
This summer, massive floods in northeastern Bangladesh inundated dozens of villages, submerging 94% of the Sunamganj district and over 84% of the Sylhet district, and killing at least 55 people. Roads were submerged, cutting off many areas, and there was massive damage to other infrastructure. About 7.2 million people across nine districts were affected.
CRS partner Caritas Bangladesh allocated 239 staff members, half of them women, and mobilized 1,230 volunteers to work with the local government to support the evacuation of 1,325 at-risk families to 18 shelter centers, provide food assistance and relief at the shelters, and assist search and rescue operations. CRS provided shelter kits to 5,600 families and cash assistance, hygiene and shelter kits to another 1,300 families. CRS also raised awareness of COVID-19 and hygiene among families, and provided safe water storage and water purification supplies.
The southeastern part of the country hosts the world’s largest refugee settlement.
In August 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees fled Myanmar for neighboring Bangladesh, expanding the refugee population here 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 live at the Kutupalong-Balukhali refugee camp.
Since the onset of the crisis, CRS and Caritas have worked closely with the government of Bangladesh, local communities and other partners to provide food, shelter, water and sanitation services, health care, psychological and other counseling support, and protection services to more than 265,000 Rohingya refugees. Our work has evolved with the changing context and needs of families. Today we provide food, water and shelter; support to build safe homes and communities; protection, counseling and social services for people who are the most vulnerable; children’s informal education, recreation and youth programming; and livelihoods activities.
Humanitarian needs in Ethiopia continue to escalate given the ongoing conflict in the north, and drought in the south and east. The country is experiencing one of its most severe droughts in 40 years, following four consecutive failed rainy seasons. After almost five months of relative stability, the security situation in the north degraded significantly when Ethiopian government forces and rebels reengaged in active fighting in the north of Amhara region and the south of Tigray.
CRS is responding to the compounding crises by providing 7.7 million people with food and support. This includes vital support for 2.8 million people in conflict-affected areas. CRS is also providing crop seeds, and cash for vegetable seed distribution, for families affected by drought. CRS continues to support displaced families with emergency shelter and cash for rent in the southern state of Oromia.
"I used to own
a big farm with my brothers, but, because of prolonged drought, it has dried up. I now wake up every morning not knowing what day labor I will be able to find."
On September 5, the United Nations Inter-Agency Standing Committee said that, without significant humanitarian assistance, parts of Somalia would face famine between October and December 2022. Southern Somalia has seen a drastic rise in acute malnutrition in children, and child and adult deaths. Today, 1.4 million children under age 5 face acute malnutrition. Nearly 330,000 may die without immediate treatment.
The crisis has led to massive displacement and heightened conflict around land tenure and resources. Nearly 3 million people have been displaced, and 48% of Somalia’s population needs humanitarian assistance. CRS has supported more than 70,000 people affected by this crisis with health care, nutrition services, cash assistance, and clean water and hygiene supplies.
WEST AND CENTRAL AFRICA
The 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 in 2022. The conflict is defined by deadly attacks on civilians and community leaders, human rights violations, and vigilante and intercommunal violence. Life-giving infrastructure has also been targeted, including water sources. The conflict is rooted in historic grievances, inequitable management of resources, disaffection of populations, and violent extremism. Gender-based violence— including forced and child marriage, physical and sexual violence, and sexual exploitation—threatens the safety and agency of those trapped by or actively fleeing the conflict.
Almost 3 million people have fled violence, some multiple times and with little warning. Often unable to carry their belongings with them, they are left unable to meet basic survival needs.
Although communities across the Sahel largely welcome displaced people and share their limited resources, overcrowding and prolonged hosting increases pressure on the livelihoods and well-being of hosts. Temporary displacements have become long-term settlements on hosts’ farmlands, in public buildings such as schools, or in overcrowded neighborhoods with limited water, sanitation and other services. The displaced people, their hosts and all conflict-affected communities, face extended loss of livelihoods, education and resilience.
CRS and our partners are supporting a response to save lives, reduce suffering, build resilience, and promote social cohesion and peacebuilding. We address both shocks and longer-term needs through layered, holistic programs. Priority efforts include provision of safe and dignified shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene, counseling, livelihoods restoration and market-based solutions to bolster local economies, and building the capacity of local humanitarian actors.
Non-state armed groups have carried out attacks in the northernmost Cabo Delgado province since October 2017. These attacks have been increasing in frequency and intensity, and have resulted in 4,131 deaths—among them, 1,791 civilians.
The crisis has led to 946,500 people fleeing their homes and towns in affected areas, with about 24,000 spilling into neighboring Nampula province.
Shelter, food, water, sanitation and hygiene, and living supplies are the highest priority needs. CRS is providing critical shelter, and water, hygiene and sanitation support for displaced families and the local families hosting them.
To date, CRS Mozambique and Caritas Pemba have supported nearly 25,000 internally displaced people in Cabo Delgado with temporary shelter, latrines, and hygiene messaging and supplies.
GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS
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.
In the Horn of Africa alone, millions of people are facing the threat of starvation. About 22 million people across the region need urgent assistance to survive. Multiple agencies are warning that food assistance must be immediately scaled up and sustained to prevent loss of life and livelihoods. Furthermore, forecasts indicate a strong likelihood of a fifth failed rainy season later this year.
"Acute Food Insecurity
is when a person’s inability to consume adequate food puts their lives or livelihoods in immediate danger."
These challenges come at an already difficult time. Many governments have had to divert resources and funding to address the impacts of COVID-19 on people’s health and livelihoods. The war in Ukraine is straining an already-fragile global food system, particularly for the emerging markets and developing economies that depend on Russia and Ukraine for fuel, fertilizer and staples such as wheat, corn and cooking oil. As costs rise, the potential for further conflict and instability continues to increase in the world’s most vulnerable countries, where so many rely on imported food to feed their families and survive.
CRS is collaborating with partners on a comprehensive response to meet immediate needs, while ramping up programming to strengthen resilience. We recognize the urgent need to avert famine and the devastation of livelihoods. There is also the likelihood that the underlying drivers of food insecurity will lead to longer-term 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 now and in the coming months will affect yields for the 2023 harvest.
people across the Horn of Africa need urgent assistance to survive.
CRS emergency programming is planned for 18 to 24 months, with a combination of immediate, conflict-sensitive responses alongside short- and medium-term activities designed to address the underlying causes of food insecurity. These will include localized cooperative approaches that enhance social cohesion and a community’s ability to respond to future crises. Our goals are to mitigate acute food insecurity and malnutrition, and ensure that:
- Vulnerable people have equitable, sufficient 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.
Food and Supplies
- Providing families with cash assistance and vouchers to buy essential food and living supplies at local markets.
- Distributing seeds and tools to farmers to complement agricultural training, and facilitating market linkages.
- Providing food distribution in areas with limited market supply and supporting school feeding interventions.
- Establishing mobile health units to provide health and nutrition services to displaced families and communities.
- Providing health and nutrition programs to treat disease, ensure maternal and child health, and enable community-based management of acute malnutrition.
- Delivering health consultations and reaching people with essential nutrition services.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene
- Providing water pumps, as well as equipment, fuel and community-based maintenance to repair local water infrastructure, and delivering clean water to the highest-risk communities most affected by drought.
- Providing hygiene kits or vouchers, as well as feminine hygiene kits for women and girls.
- Training community health volunteers to promote sanitation and hygiene, safe water management and hand-washing.
- Offering people income opportunities focused on removing silt from shallow wells.
- Providing water, sanitation and hygiene supplies, and conducting trainings on hygiene and sanitation practices that promote health in displaced communities.
- Cleaning and repairing community boreholes.
Agriculture and Livelihoods
- Providing farm families with drought-resistant seeds of nutrient-rich crops.
- Promoting kitchen gardens to help families grow vegetables.
- Collaborating with local government to provide training on crop production and post-harvest handling, using nutrient-rich crops and bulk seed practices.
- Connecting farmer families with government extension services.
- Helping local government to vaccinate and de-worm livestock in communities hosting displaced herders.
- Supporting nomadic communities with feeding and protecting the health of their livestock.
- Offering people income opportunities focused on managing invasive plant species.
- Working with community-led savings and lending groups that provide people with access to capital to start new businesses, pay school fees and medical costs, improve their housing and buy seeds, tools and livestock.
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