The story of aid in a CARE package

Distribution of hygiene kits in Yemen

20 May 2022


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 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...

1970s and 80s: Responding to food crises in Africa


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.

1991: Civil war in Somalia - providing vital aid to refugees in Kenya


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.

2003: Civil war in Darfur - supporting pregnant and young mothers


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 neighbouring 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.

2004: Indian Ocean Tsunami - one of the largest relief operations in history


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.

2011: Civil War in Syria - providing cash to meet the most urgent needs


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.

2013: Helping to prevent the spread of disease after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines


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.

2014: Supporting people to survive harsh winters in northern Iraq


In the Dohuk region of northern Iraq, more than 900,000 people have sought refuge from violence since 2014. When crisis hit, CARE packages had to be distributed quickly, because people urgently needed shelter and protection from the weather.

In Bersive camp, CARE organised garbage disposal, provided hygiene facilities, and distributed warm clothes, blankets, stoves and other items for surviving the harsh winters.

2015: Emergency shelter after earthquakes in Nepal


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.

2015: Supporting refugees in the Balkans


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.

Present day: When disaster strikes, CARE is there

Ukraine crisis response

With conflict in Ukraine, Gaza and many other parts of the world, climate change affecting millions and as many as 828 million people around the world affected by hunger, the need for humanitarian aid is greater than ever. Although the contents of a CARE package may look very different from back in 1948 when the first packages were put together, they continue to make a difference for millions of people in need around the globe.

We would like to thank all of our amazing supporters and funders for helping to make sure that we can continue to be there for those who need us, for as long as they need us. Thank you so much for all the CARE packages you have helped us to deliver.

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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