How we work in emergencies

Refugee children in Dosseye, Chad, where over 22,600 refugees from the Central African Republic have found shelter

Please help families in need

When people need help, we are there.

Every year, CARE responds to emergencies and disasters that affect the lives of millions of people around the world.

With emergency-response experts on the ground in over 60 countries — 95% of them citizens of those countries, with local knowledge and expertise — we provide emergency food, water, sanitation, shelter, health care and livelihoods support to people in need.

After people’s immediate needs are met, we stay on to support affected people and communities to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.

And we advocate for changes and improvements to the way the world responds to emergencies.

When disaster strikes, women and girls often suffer most.

Women and emergencies infographic

Women and girls are disproportionately affected by disasters and CARE is leading efforts to better protect and assist them.

During and after a crisis, women and girls aren’t just left without shelter and food. They are especially vulnerable to sexual violence and rape. Pregnant women and young mothers have specific health care needs which often go unmet. Women often become solely responsible for their families without the means to support them. Catastrophes may make it impossible for children, and especially girls, to go to school.

Working with communities hit by natural disasters and war, CARE helps keep women and girls healthy and safe. CARE puts a special focus on girls and women when distributing food and emergency supplies. We make sure girls go to school, raise awareness about violence against women, provide maternal health services and teach mothers the skills they need to rebuild their family’s lives. As communities start to recover, CARE ensures that women and girls don’t lose out – and can fulfil their potential.

Before emergencies strike

For poor, vulnerable communities, the impact of any emergency can destroy hard-won gains in the fight against poverty. Good planning and preparation can save lives, reduce the impact of disasters and help people recover more quickly.

That’s why we help communities to plan for emergencies and reduce the risks of harmful impacts from future disasters – such as by advising on how to build safer housing, or supporting farmers to grow drought-resistant crops.

During an emergency

CARE’s dedicated resources for emergency response allow us to provide fast, effective relief to communities in need as soon as a disaster strikes. With ongoing programmes in many of the world’s most disaster-prone countries, CARE has emergency response experts already on the ground, and additional emergency specialists ready to immediately deploy from around the world.

We provide emergency food and other supplies, provide shelter, and ensure people have access to water, sanitation and health care. We place special emphasis on meeting the needs of women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by disasters.

After an emergency

After the emergency phase has passed, CARE works with communities to recover in the long term. Our goal is to move as quickly as possible from emergency response to recovery and sustained development. We help people to work their own way out of poverty, for example by supporting people to rebuild businesses, and farmers to rehabilitate their farms.

We also provide psychosocial support, helping communities recover from trauma by re-establishing communal activities and structures and promoting better coping mechanisms through community activities.

An elderly woman in Somaliland
An elderly woman who received an unconditional cash grant as part of CARE's emergency drought response in Sanaag region, Somalia

We work alongside affected people to give them the help they want.

Watch this short video by Tom Newby, one of our emergency shelter experts, explaining how CARE helps people displaced from their homes by disasters or conflict:

Local resources, local solutions

By buying materials locally where possible rather than flying supplies in, we support local businesses, get supplies to the people in need more quickly, and make our money go further. By partnering with local organisations and community groups and hiring local staff, we tap into the knowledge of a community’s language and culture, develop a deeper understanding of the people we are serving, and make effective use of local expertise.

CARE focuses on building the capacity of local CARE staff and partners in the countries where we work, by providing training, technical guidance and tools; with qualified staff already on the ground, we can respond immediately to new emergencies, and quickly scale up our response.

Our expertise

While each response is tailored to the needs of each situation, CARE’s four emergency focus areas are food security; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); shelter; and sexual and reproductive health support. We also specialise in economic recovery, education, nutrition, psychosocial support, and agriculture and natural resource management.

During an emergency, CARE coordinates with local governments and participates in the United Nations cluster system, a coordinated approach that aims to ensure that humanitarian actors work together, reducing duplication of efforts and ensuring all people in need receive aid.

Our principles

CARE operates on the basis of humanitarian principles – neutrality, impartiality and independence – to ensure that aid gets through to people on the basis of needs alone.

The principles that guide the way we deliver our emergency responses include:

  • promote empowerment
  • work in partnership with others
  • ensure accountability and promote responsibility
  • address discrimination
  • promote the non-violent resolution of conflicts
  • seek sustainable results

Quality and accountability

We recognise that in emergency situations, the people affected by a crisis often feel disempowered and helpless. We are committed to meeting international standards of quality and accountability when we respond to emergencies, and to making sure communities have a say in planning, implementing and evaluating our response.

Download a short summary of our approach to emergencies:

Factsheet: Emergencies - CARE in action (October 2015)