Global Emergency Update October 2023

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Global Emergency Update CRS Responds to Crises Around The World

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.

This month, there is a particular focus on the Holy Land. This region has been affected by protracted conflict, violence and instability, resulting in widespread suffering and displacement. CRS, in collaboration with local partners, is supporting efforts to provide lifesaving aid and long-term assistance to the most vulnerable communities there.

Crisis in the Holy Land

The Holy Land

The crisis in the Holy Land has unfolded into a humanitarian catastrophe after the October 7 attack on Israel, which is being met with a bombardment of retaliatory strikes on Gaza. Civilian deaths are rapidly increasing, as is the destruction of homes, schools, religious properties and hospitals. More than 1.5 million — 65% of the population, are displaced from their homes into crowded, unsanitary shelters, while the entire Gazan population has been increasingly deprived of water, food and medical care.

In coordination with partners across the region, Catholic Relief Services is helping to meet urgent needs. We are responding to the rapidly changing context and are being especially mindful of people’s needs—both physical and emotional—at a time of tremendous uncertainty, fear, loss and despair. CRS is able to draw on our extensive experience and partnerships in the Holy Land, where we have been active for decades, including responses to the needs brought by the 2014 war and successive conflicts. As this crisis evolves, CRS and partner support will be tailored to priority needs, the local context and partner guidance, and include any or all of the following:

  • Emergency food and living supplies.
  • Safe and dignified shelter support.
  • Psychological counseling and support.
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene.
  • Recovery of homes and livelihoods.
relief supplies in the Holy Land.

In the Holy Land, a CRS staff member works to deliver emergency aid.

Photo by Shareef Sarhan for CRS

In the News

Afghanistan

In October 2023, Afghanistan’s Herat province experienced a series of powerful earthquakes, including a 6.3 magnitude quake on October 7, a second of the same magnitude on October 11, and a third on October 15. These earthquakes resulted in more than 1,480 deaths, 1,950 injuries, and extensive damage to homes, schools and infrastructure. Rescue efforts continue amid reports that some people may be trapped under collapsed buildings.

Around 27,155 people—2,835 families—have been affected across eight districts in Herat. The number is expected to rise as assessments continue. Hospitals are overwhelmed and struggling to keep up with medical needs. Additionally, with at least 4,642 homes severely damaged or destroyed, more than 3,500 families are living in makeshift shelters or open spaces. Displacement sites formed in Herat due to damaged homes and aftershocks. Urgent needs include winter tents, health facility repairs, disease monitoring, and essential aid like blankets, food, water, and health care.

Catholic Relief Services is assessing the impact of the earthquakes on health, homes, livelihoods, well-being and markets in affected areas, which will inform a targeted response. In partnership with UNICEF, CRS is directly responding in Herat province, where we have prepared a mobile emergency team to provide cash assistance where markets are still functioning, as well as support for shelter and water, sanitation and hygiene.

Armenia

Nagorno Karabakh—Artsakh in Armenian, or NK—is a region in the Southern Caucasus mountains that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but home to around 120,000 ethnic Armenians who do not recognize Azerbaijani rule. Since December 12, 2022, Azerbaijan has blocked the Lachin Corridor, the highway that connects NK with Armenia, cutting off assistance to the area and leading to shortages in NK.

On September 19, 2023, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces launched a military offensive into NK, resulting in 200 casualties. A Russian-brokered ceasefire is currently in place, and the Republic of Artsakh announced formal dissolution as of January 1, 2024. More than 100,625 ethnic Armenians—nearly the entire Armenian population of NK—have fled to Armenia with few belongings.

The Armenian government has set up humanitarian stations in the Syunik and Vayk Regions of Armenia and is engaging nongovernmental and civil society organizations to support longer-term responses such as housing, livelihoods and education. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and government authorities are finalizing an inter-agency refugee response plan and conducting a joint rapid needs assessment. Our partner, Armenian Caritas, is working closely with the Armenian government in the southern border region of Syunik, and four other regions. It has provided hot meals, shelter, food and hygiene kits, and warm blankets and bed linens. Armenian Caritas also opened its social and health centers for displaced children and older adults. AC social workers are involved in needs assessments. CRS has made a contribution to support ongoing activities.

Morocco

On September 8, Morocco experienced a devastating earthquake, resulting in more than 2,900 casualties, displacing 500,000 people, and damaging over 56,000 homes, with a significant concentration of fatalities in the Al Haouz province. It was the strongest earthquake to hit Morocco in over a century. Road accessibility remains a considerable challenge, especially in remote areas. While immediate needs such as food and shelter have been addressed, the recovery process still faces significant infrastructure challenges, including issues related to water supply and disruptions to schools.

The government of Morocco initiated a five-year reconstruction plan focused on housing, infrastructure and emergency assistance. While many people are staying in shelters, they are bracing for cold winter months. Caritas Marrakech responded within three days of the disaster and distributed aid. Caritas Marrakech is playing a key role in hosting coordination meetings for 30-plus organizations providing humanitarian assistance. Among its recent assistance has been the distribution of supplies to hospitals, healthcare centers, and orphanages in Al Haouz. CRS is supporting Caritas Marrakech and another local organization, Association Tiwizi pour le Développement Social, to ensure food, medications, shelter and living supplies, and winter items are available. CRS has deployed three team members to provide overall program quality accompaniment and technical support for shelter and winterization. While we are currently prioritizing temporary shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene, livelihoods recovery is a major focus of support in the long term.

Central America

In Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, escalating gang violence and drug cartels have caused families to flee north in increasing numbers. Economic collapse in places like Venezuela and Haiti is also driving large numbers of people to flee desperate conditions in their home countries. Many live in constant fear and struggle with chronic poverty, lack of job opportunities, and failed harvests caused by environmental degradation and climate change.

Thousands of people—including entire families—have arrived in Mexico seeking humanitarian visas, shelter, asylum or transit permits to reach the U.S. border. At the same time, Mexicans are displaced and migrating north to escape organized crime. More than 120 shelters and organizations are managed by Catholic institutions and civil society organizations across the region that provide food, a safe place to sleep for a few nights, medical assistance, legal advice, counseling and referrals to other organizations as needed for additional services. These shelters have been doubling or even tripling their capacity and providing more services than usual—particularly for mental health, employment, legal representation and education.

CRS is working closely with our Catholic partners and civic organizations to improve the safety, quality and efficiency of shelters to strengthen the capacity of staff and institutions at the front lines of the migrant crisis. This includes assistance for food, medicine and supplies; legal, medical and psychological counseling; upgraded facilities; and strengthening the capacity of shelter staff.

young boy eats lunch in a shelter in Mexico

Emiliano eats lunch at the Madre Asunta Center, a shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, specializing in the care of migrant women and children and supported by CRS.

Photo by Óscar Leiva/Silverlight for CRS

Niger

In July’s military coup, a group of soldiers calling themselves the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland announced suspension of the Niger constitution and the dissolution of the government. Border crossings via land and air were closed, and a nightly curfew was put in place. Within 48 hours, General Abdourahamane Tchiani, head of the presidential guard unit, declared himself Niger's new leader. In response, the Economic Community of West African States imposed sanctions, restricting Niger’s access to banking services, and limiting trade with neighboring countries—affecting the delivery pipeline of essential supplies. Niger’s population is already vulnerable: The country is ranked among the world’s poorest. Prior to the current political situation, an estimated 370,000 people were internally displaced in Niger due to violence. What’s more, the country hosts a quarter million refugees from neighboring countries including Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigeria.

CRS has long supported a number of development and humanitarian programs across the country, and recently expanded in response to this crisis in the Tillabéri and Diffa regions. There, CRS is supporting 2,100 families with cash assistance: 1,605 displaced families with vouchers for food assistance, and 657 families with cash-for-work activities for land restoration and water run-off management. CRS is also launching a long-term emergency food security program that will reach more than 3,500 families with nutritional rehabilitation, food assistance and small animal husbandry.

Ukraine

The war continues to drive increasing humanitarian needs in Ukraine, particularly impacting people who remain in communities close to the front line. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, more than 7 million people have fled to neighboring countries, while 6.3 million remain displaced within Ukraine. Across the region, the role of Caritas partners is unparalleled. Even at the onset of conflict—when Caritas staff themselves were directly affected and uprooted from their homes and loved ones—they provided food, shelter, counseling and medical assistance.

CRS’ support to Caritas partners in 11 countries has directly benefited 1.6 million people with safe shelter, food and nutrition, cash assistance, hygiene and living supplies, counseling, protection and health services. These efforts have evolved to meet longer-term needs—such as repair to war-damaged homes, cash assistance for rent, language courses and jobs-skills training in neighboring countries, and education and trauma healing for children. A major part of CRS support is assisting Caritas partners with capacity and support for project implementation.

Silent Emergencies

Global Food Crisis

Communities across the world continue to face life-threatening levels of hunger on an unprecedented scale. At least 258 million people across 58 countries and territories are facing food insecurity—in some cases, starvation, destitution, extremely critical levels of acute malnutrition, and death. Areas of urgent concern include East Africa and the Sahel. CRS is working with hundreds of local partners worldwide on programs that combine immediate, lifesaving support—including food distributions, nutritional supplements, clean water provision and health services. Longer-term initiatives seek to address the underlying causes of food insecurity by supporting communities and farmers with agricultural approaches that restore degraded lands, promote resilient seeds and practices that withstand droughts and other climate disasters, and bolster sustainable livelihoods.

To reverse this trend, we must work with and support existing local systems: Local organizations are often the first to respond to emergencies—sometimes, the only ones with access to people in need. Likewise, local government, when safe and functioning, is the first mandated line of social protection and, where possible, needs support to provide food and nutrition services such as cash, livestock assistance, water services and more. However, many local and national organizations might not have humanitarian experience, funding or operational capacity. Additionally, local market systems need support to be functional and resilient—not only to provide affordable food and nutrition, but also to support livelihoods—even during crises that strain them.

Our programs must engage local vendors, suppliers and markets to help ensure the local economy can survive and recover. Strained local supply chains disrupt the availability of food, causing prices to skyrocket. Assistance that engages and strengthens local supply chains helps keep food affordable and accessible in communities that are at greatest risk for hunger and starvation. Funding and efforts to strengthen local leadership and institutions uphold our commitment to subsidiarity, the belief that communities closest to local challenges are the best agents of their own development.

relief supplies in Ukraine.

An internally displaced child has his height measured at a health clinic supported by CRS in Somalia where an estimated 7.1 million people, half of them children, need emergency food aid.

Photo by Omar Faruk for CRS

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has experienced cyclical cholera outbreaks since 2008, when more than 90,000 cases were reported and 5,000 people died from the disease. These outbreaks have largely been confined to the capital, Harare, and other urban districts, and the government has been able to control the spread of the disease. In February 2023, a new outbreak of cholera started in Mashonaland West Province and has now spread to all 10 provinces of Zimbabwe. Cholera cases began to increase in mid-September, affecting the Buhera rural district in Manicaland province and a few cases in the Bikita district of Masvingo province. More than 300 cases have been reported in the first week of October. The Mwerahari River that flows through the district is expected to spread the disease as people upstream wash infected clothes and blankets, polluting the drinking water for communities downstream. The outbreak has overwhelmed the government health system as well as humanitarian responders on the ground. Many cholera treatment centers lack essential supplies and the Environmental Health department of the Ministry of Health and Child Care does not have the mobility to effectively carry out contact tracing, health education and water quality monitoring. CRS is providing equipment and sanitation supplies to support cholera treatment centers in Buhera; distributing water, sanitation and hygiene supply kits; repairing water systems; and assisting the Ministry of Health to monitor the quality of water.

woman carries bucket in Zimbabweo

A women carries a bucket of clean water from a collection point near her home in Zimbabwe. A CRS project there supports access to safe drinking water by delivering piped water closer to communities. This helps reduce the spread of diseases like cholera.

Photo byariro Mhute/CRS

Sudan

On April 15, 2023, armed conflict erupted across Sudan, with fighting concentrated in the capital, Khartoum, and in cities across the Darfur and Kordofan states. An estimated 4.7 million people have been displaced within the country, or fled across the border to neighboring Egypt, Chad, South Sudan, Ethiopia, the Central African Republic and Libya. Roughly half the country’s population—24.7 million people—require humanitarian assistance. 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 materials for cultivation. Concerns are high that this season’s harvests might fail.

The latest events have reignited inter-communal violence across Darfur and led to 300,000 people fleeing West Darfur to Chad. Many describe their travel overland as dangerous, but the risks are also high for those who are unable to flee—older adults, people with disabilities, and low-income households who remain in areas of intense conflict because travel is not a viable option. CRS is working with our partners to provide relief to Sudanese refugees in Egypt, Chad and South Sudan as well as to those displaced across the five Darfur states. Priorities include:

  • Food.
  • Cash assistance.
  • Income generating activities.
  • Agricultural supplies and tools.
  • Shelter and living supplies.
  • Strengthened water, sanitation and hygiene, including the repair of water infrastructure and provision of hygiene supplies.
  • Health and nutrition support, including nutrition screenings, therapeutic foods to malnourished children, mobile clinics to serve rural areas, medical supplies for health facilities, and capacity strengthening of nutrition staff.
  • Facilitation of social cohesion and peacebuilding activities.
  • Emotional care and counseling support, including training of social workers, teachers and parents.
meeting in Sudan

A CRS staff member addresses the community in Hashaba village, West Darfur, Sudan. Twenty years after the conflict between government security forces and armed movements erupted in Darfur, and three years since the signing of the peace agreement, the region is fraught with conflict and other security incidents posing risks and threats to civilians.

Photo by Carlos Barrio/CRS

Mali

Since early August, security and humanitarian conditions have significantly deteriorated for people across the northern and central regions of Mali. Non-state armed groups have restricted access to several areas, with the dangers of harassment, kidnapping and violent attacks targeting civilians, businesses and humanitarian responders. As a result, less than 5% of displaced families have been reached with humanitarian assistance in the Timbuktu and Taoudenni regions, and many businesses and services have closed. Scarcity of goods compounded by price inflation has led to families going without food, fuel and key hygiene and living supplies. Despite current restrictions, CRS is working with partners to provide emergency assistance to internally displaced people in the Ségou and Gao regions. CRS coordinates with other humanitarian and governmental actors to access areas and will expand our programming as the security situation evolves.

Current areas of support are taking place in Timbuktu and Taoudenni, Gao, Mopti and Segou, with a focus on food assistance, safe shelter and provision of hygiene supplies and household items. The assistance ranges by location and access. To date, distributions are taking place primarily in Mopti and Segou, with plans for direct support in Gao soon. This includes support for local government response and coordination. For example, in Timbuktu, where CRS has been one of the first international nongovernmental organizations to respond, CRS is supporting regional authorities to provide emergency assistance to survivors of a passenger boat attack on the Niger River. And, in Gao, CRS and local partner CRADE are collaborating with local officials to coordinate humanitarian aid to displaced communities.

Mali displacement camp

Talata Dicko fled from her home near Bankass, Mali in 2019, after armed men attacked her village and burned it to the ground. She's been living at a camp for displaced people in Mopti, Mali ever since. CRS provided her family with cash upon their arrival, which allowed them to purchase food and clothing.

Photo by Annika Hammerschlag for CRS

Haiti

In 2021, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, followed by a tropical storm days later. More than 2,200 people lost their lives, and 53,000 homes were fully destroyed. Since then, conditions have become even more difficult, as security has deteriorated. President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in 2022 and, over the past year, protests and gang activity have escalated in and around Port au Prince, blocking roads and restricting travel. At least 19,000 people have been displaced from the capital city in their search for safer conditions elsewhere in the country. With disruption in the supply chain, prices rose for food, gasoline and diesel. Families across Haiti have been weathering a growing humanitarian crisis, with at least 5 million people experiencing food insecurity.

CRS is working closely with Caritas Haiti and the Episcopal Commission for Catholic Education to meet immediate needs for food, shelter and water, as well as full recovery. To date, CRS and our partners have supported 41,500 families. This includes the provision of 15,000 shelter kits; training for masons on safe reconstruction and repair; cash assistance to 2,000 farmers, entrepreneurs and vendors; and the establishment of four farmer field schools to productive agricultural practices. Our long-term areas of focus will prioritize construction of safe, transitional shelter, school reconstruction, water system restoration, livelihoods restoration, and youth and community-led activities to promote resiliency.

harvest in Haiti

In Haiti, Aliya Jeudi lives by selling what she harvests after cultivating her garden. CRS support has been of great help to her because this year the harvest was not good. CRS’ emergency strategy focuses on providing clean water, sanitation, emergency and transitional shelter, and livelihood recovery in addition to assistance to earthquake-affected families to meet their basic needs.

Photo by Georges Harry Rouzier for CRS

West and Central Sahel

Sharply worsening conflict has caused mass displacement in the central Sahel region. This, coupled with a global food crisis, has created a humanitarian catastrophe in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. Almost 3 million people have fled violence. Although neighboring communities are sharing their limited resources, overcrowding increases pressure on livelihoods and overall well-being. The compounded events have resulted in heightened insecurity and a climate of volatile instability. CRS is supporting emergency efforts to meet lifesaving needs, reduce suffering, build resilience and support social cohesion and peacebuilding. Priority areas for assistance include:

  • Safe shelter using our Safe Homes and Communities approach—recognizing the home as the entry point for providing comprehensive assistance.
  • Cash and supplies to meet basic needs for food and living.
  • Livelihoods support, including income generation and climate-smart agriculture.
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene.
  • Psychological first aid and counseling support.
  • Capacity and leadership support for local organizations acting as first responders.
  • To raise the visibility and support for this crisis, in 2019 religious leaders launched the Sahel Peace Initiative to raise awareness about the importance of promoting peace in the region, advocate for change, and mobilize humanitarian and development actions.

RECOVERY AND RESILIENCE

Philippines
Ten Years after Typhoon Haiyan

This November marks 10 years since Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, claiming more than 6,000 lives, and devastating property and infrastructure on the islands of Leyte and Samar, including 1.1 million homes. Over the past decade, CRS has supported partners and communities in their recovery and rebuilding of homes, livelihoods and infrastructure across the hard-hit areas of eastern Samar and Leyte, including Tacloban City.

post typhoon reconstruction

Two years after Super Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines, claiming 6,201 lives and leaving entire swaths of Leyte and Samar islands in ruins, CRS has repaired or reconstructed 20,000 homes.

Photo by Kim Pozniak/CRS

Nepal

Impacts in Recovery from 2015 Earthquake

The April 2015 Gorkha earthquake, at 7.8 magnitude, struck near Kathmandu and damaged more than 800,000 homes across 32 districts. A reported 60% of the housing damage was in rural areas. CRS’ early emergency relief programming soon transitioned to long-standing partnerships, with CRS eventually becoming the lead agency in the national Housing Reconstruction and Recovery Platform. Through the HRRP, CRS has contributed technical support to the government’s National Reconstruction Authority. In this role, CRS helped to facilitate collaboration among stakeholders, supported the development of national technical guidelines and standards for reconstruction, and provided technical assistance and capacity building for housing recovery and reconstruction programs. By facilitating strengthened policies and strategies, CRS has helped 126,676 families—603,274 people—reconstruct their homes through the government support system.

Watch the latest video from Nepal on the impact of recovery efforts here.

Stories From the Field

Central African Republic:

Supporting Families in Central African Republic

Cash Transfers Buoy Displaced Families in Central African Republic

Emergency Food Welcomed in Central African Republic

Gaining Food and Shelter in Central African Republic

Tanzania:

Strengthening Food Security and Finances in Tanzania

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October 2023

CRS Responds to Crises Around The World – 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. This month, there is a particular focus on the Holy Land. This region has been affected by protracted conflict, violence, and instability, resulting in widespread suffering and displacement. CRS, in collaboration with local partners, is supporting efforts to provide lifesaving aid and long-term assistance to the most vulnerable communities there.

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