The story of aid in a CARE package


05 May 2020


CARE was first set up in 1945 to send ‘CARE packages’ from people in the USA to people in Europe recovering from World War 2. The first CARE packages (above) were so-called ‘ten-in-one’ rations of the US Army, originally intended to provide one meal for ten soldiers. After the war, these rations were purchased and distributed by CARE. From 1947 onwards, when the stock of rations ran out, CARE began to prepare and distribute its own packages, firstly in Europe, and then to developing countries around the world. Here are some examples of CARE packages through the decades...


In the 1970s, CARE began to distribute sewing machines to women who used them to earn an income. Many of these self-powered sewing machines are still in use today.


CARE responded to several major food crises on the African continent in the 1970s and 1980s by distributing staple foods such as rice and wheat. CARE also distributed seeds and helped improve farming techniques and irrigation systems.


After the outbreak of the Somalian civil war in 1991, many people were forced to flee into neighbouring Kenya, where they ended up in what is now the world’s largest refugee camp in Dadaab. The refugees received tarpaulins for emergency shelters, household items, a water canister for clean and safe storage of drinking water, mosquito nets and other supplies. Today, CARE is still working in Dadaab, where we organise food distributions and operate several schools.


The Indian Ocean tsunami on 26 December 2004 took the lives of approximately 230,000 people. Nearly two million people lost their homes. Schools, hospitals and roads were destroyed. One of the largest relief operations in the history of humanitarian aid organisations began. Survival packages contained relief supplies which were purchased in the region. Plastic containers served as packages.


Since civil war erupted in Darfur in 2003, hundreds of thousands of people have died and more than 2 million have been displaced due to violence. CARE provided emergency assistance in refugee camps in Darfur and neighboring Chad. To support pregnant women and young mothers, CARE distributed packages containing mother-and-baby supplies and supplementary food for young children, pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers.


In the first three months after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in 2013, CARE reached about 200,000 people with emergency aid. Hygiene kits helped families to survive the first few weeks and to prevent the spread of diseases.


The Syria civil war began in 2011. In the neighbouring countries of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, most families don’t take shelter in refugee camps, but in urban areas. They live in apartment buildings, barracks or with family members. These people are not legally allowed to work, and struggle to meet their basic needs. CARE provides aid in the form of cash (through electronic cards that can be redeemed at a bank) so people can decide for themselves what they spend their money on: rent, food, medicine or school supplies.


CARE supports families in the Dohuk region of northern Iraq, where more than 900,000 people have sought refuge from violence since 2014. CARE packages had to be distributed quickly, because people urgently needed shelter and protection from the weather. In Bersive camp, CARE organises garbage disposal, provides hygiene facilities, and distributes warm clothes, blankets, stoves and other items for surviving the harsh winters.


More than 600,000 homes were destroyed or damaged in Nepal by the 2015 earthquakes. As well as providing people with immediate food, water, and hygiene  supplies, CARE packages included mattresses and tarpaulins for emergency shelter, and tools such as nails, wire, rope, gloves and other materials to repair damaged buildings.


Northeastern Nigeria has suffered from violence and attacks for years. Millions have been displaced within their country or fled to neighbouring states – including  more than150,000 who came to Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world.  They came without any possessions, and instead of living in large refugee camps, most of them are accommodated in small villages. The hospitality of these very poor villages is impressive, despite nearly half the population in the region themselves already suffering from food shortages. Therefore CARE doesn’t only supply the refugees, but also the host communities. In addition to monthly basic food supplies, a CARE package contains household items for cooking, clothes, towels and other daily necessities.


From the summer of 2015, the number of refugees seeking to enter Europe through the Balkans dramatically increased. CARE's long-standing partner organisations in Serbia and Croatia set up aid systems immediately. Families received cotton bags containing food and hygiene products.

Today, climate change affects millions, including with increasingly violent storms, CARE helps rebuild in the wake of Cyclone Idai. In 2020, CARE is quick to respond to the unprecented Coronavirus crisis with modern-day CARE packages to meet the needs of communities around the world. 

These photos were first published in the magazine Süddeutsche Zeitung through a collaboration with CARE Germany, and are reproduced by kind permission of Maik Rositzki and Süddeutsche Zeitung.

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