Clare Sayce, CARE’s Emergency Response Officer, answers your questions:
What do you do when you first hear of a disaster?
CARE staff in the country affected will alert our CARE Emergency Group in Geneva, and we then send an assessment team to the disaster area. This way we get a good understanding of the scale of the disaster and the needs of the people affected. The team also looks at how others, like the country’s own government, other aid agencies and United Nations organisations are responding, or plan to respond. This helps us decide on how we can best assist.
And how can CARE best help usually?
Initially, CARE helps meet people’s most urgent needs. This often includes providing relief items so people have water, shelter, food and medical supplies. In the Asia earthquake in October 2005, for example, we distributed blankets, warm clothing, water containers, tents and plastic sheets to more than 10,000 families in India and Pakistan. Buying materials locally, where possible, we support local businesses and spend our money effectively – it’s cheaper than flying supplies in.
But it is not just about providing relief items, the way they are provided is important too.
We aim to protect people’s dignity in everything we do. We listen to the people we are helping, and work with them to make sure what we do meets their needs best. Providing water, for example, is more than ensuring they have enough water for drinking, cooking and hygiene, the water should be distributed respectfully, for example not making people stand for hours queuing under a hot sun.
Do you have enough staff in country to do this?
Not always. We have offices in more than 70 countries, and in many cases we’ve worked for decades in these countries, carrying out long-term, sustainable development work. If a disaster strikes we draw on the skills and knowledge of our country offices and experienced CARE staff from around the world. In many cases we employ hundreds of extra staff for our emergency response, from drivers and accountants to project managers, technical experts and field staff. The Asian tsunami was an extreme example, but in the Indonesian region of Aceh alone we employed 500 new staff members.
Are there any rules that govern what you can and can’t do?
Yes. There are several important codes and standards that guide what we do in emergencies.
To read about the standards and codes that CARE adheres to please click here.
We often face many constraints in an emergency, such as insufficient funding or difficulties reaching people in need because of conflict or blocked roads. Despite difficulties, we stay until the job is done, working, where we can, to change the situation for the better, through our own work and by influencing others.
How do you get the money?
We have a number of ways to get the support we need to help when disaster strikes.
CARE’s emergency group co-ordinates our global emergency response fund. Here, in the United Kingdom, we use our Rapid Response Fund, which some of our supporters generously contribute to on a regular basis. This fund ensures we are one of the first to respond in an emergency, getting aid where it is needed most. If you would like to donate or learn more visit the how you can help section.
CARE is also a member of the Disaster Emergencies Committee (DEC), a group of 13 international humanitarian organisations, that appeals for support for disaster relief. We also approach the UK government’s Department for International Development and the European Union’s Humanitarian Office for support.
How do you avoid duplicating other organisations’ work?
Co-ordination is critical for a successful response to a disaster. We work closely with all organisations working in disaster-affected areas, both national and international, to make sure duplication does not happen.
The United Nations’ Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) works with the government of the affected country to lead the co-ordination. CARE attends the co-ordination meetings, where we share information and work with others to solve problems. We also find out who is best placed to help and how. By supporting other organisations, and working together, we make sure we meet the needs of the people affected. This is not always an easy task because of the scale of some emergencies and the challenges we face. For example, after Pakistan’s 2006 earthquake, it was extremely difficult to reach people cut off by snow in the mountains, but through working with other agencies we were able to help.
When do you decide that the work is done?
We stay long after the cameras have gone to help with long-term recovery. We aim to help people rebuild their lives and earn a decent living. Most of CARE’s recovery and development work is about supporting lives and livelihoods. It is essential our work, before, during and after a disaster, reduces people’s vulnerability in the future.
Is there any evaluation of your work afterwards?
We always carry out evaluations of our work. Where an appeal is launched by the Disasters Emergency Committee, a joint evaluation is carried out by all the agencies involved in the appeal, which are made available publicly.
How can I help?
The most effective way to help is by making regular donations to our Rapid Response Fund.