Life can change for millions of families in an instant: natural disasters take loved ones and the outbreak of war drives families from their homes. When the unthinkable happens, Mercy Corps delivers rapid, lifesaving aid to hard-hit communities.
We have responded to almost every global natural disaster in the last 20 years, including the Japan tsunami, Haiti earthquake, hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa, Indian Ocean tsunami, and most recently, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
Our seasoned emergency responders worked through the recent conflict in Gaza and are on the ground in Iraq, South Sudan and the Central African Republic distributing critical supplies and protecting families uprooted by ongoing violence.
We're also working to support 2.5 million people affected by the crisis in Syria, a long-term refugee crisis and humanitarian disaster with no end in sight. Learn more about our ongoing response to the Syrian crisis ▸
There is no shortage of disasters taking place around the world. Climate change is contributing to the ever-increasing number of natural disasters across the world, reflecting a long-term trend: more disasters that are increasingly severe and that disproportionately affect the poor. Similarly, man-made crises continue to proliferate. At the end of 2008, according to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNCHR), there were nearly 25 million people – 10.5 million refugees and 14.4 million internally displaced persons – receiving protection or assistance globally. Disasters not only create humanitarian crises, but also threaten long-term development and weaken the possibility of achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Mercy Corps works to help communities emerge quickly from disasters with limited loss of life and human suffering, and with a solid foundation for secure, productive and just development.
Despite the destruction and devastation that occur during a disaster, Mercy Corps has seen that these times of turmoil and tragedy also present a unique opportunity for positive change. Mercy Corps adds its greatest value as an international relief and development agency by supporting those kernels of positive change with community-led and market-driven action from the earliest possible moment in emergencies.
Accordingly, Mercy Corps approaches emergency response with a long-term vision for change. Mercy Corps created its Global Emergency Operations (GEO) unit in 2000, with a mandate to provide immediate emergency relief while identifying early recovery opportunities to help survivors build a better future. Since then, members of our GEO team have deployed in more than 30 international emergencies and have provided technical support and coordinated emergency response in many more.
<h3>A Coordinated and Comprehensive Response</h3>
Following are the key components of Mercy Corps' coordinated, comprehensive emergency response effort.
<b>GEO Team.</b> Our eight-member team has expertise in public health, water and sanitation, operations and logistics, economic recovery, program design and the gamut of cross-cutting skills needed in emergency operations, ranging from the rapid assessment and application of humanitarian standards to staff security and emergency program management. The team provides technical support, added capacity and coordination to the overall Mercy Corps response.
<b>Response Teams.</b> GEO has provided training to more than 150 Mercy Corps employees who are now able to provide local, regional or global emergency response. Our training program has reached 21 Mercy Corps country offices covering all regions and has produced an emergency response capacity fluent in 35 languages.
<b>Rapid Response Funds.</b> GEO manages a portfolio of specialized emergency funds that can be tapped to respond in situations where a quick and focused response may meet immediate needs while providing the leverage for additional resources and capacity. In just three years, $1.2 million has been allocated to initiate emergency response in 22 different crises.
<b>Early Recovery.</b> Mercy Corps has demonstrated expertise and leadership in the early application of programming which advances relief and recovery by supporting and tapping market mechanisms to lead to quicker transition to development programming. This includes market- based reconstruction methodologies which help inject cash into local economies, support locally prioritized reconstruction and enhance the self- reliance of community participants.
<b>Emergency Capacity Building.</b> GEO leads Mercy Corps’ participation in a consortium of six leading international NGOs which have worked together to create the Emergency Capacity Building (ECB) project. It’s an eight-year, $19 million initiative to enhance the speed, quality, accountability and effectiveness of the emergency preparedness and response of its members and the humanitarian sector. In its initial phase, the consortium developed 20 tools to enhance emergency response. Now these tools are being distributed to the humanitarian community and piloted in five settings.
<b>Disaster Risk Reduction.</b> DRR is an essential part of our mission. The GEO unit provides technical expertise to help our field offices integrate DRR strategies into our development programs, to mitigate the effects of disasters and help communities prepare for an emergency.
<h3>Mercy Corps Emergency Responses</h3>
Following are summaries of several recent Mercy Corps disaster responses.
<b>Democratic Republic of the Congo conflict.</b> Mercy Corps responded to conflict and the displacement of tens of thousands of people with safe-water projects, as well as a fuel-efficient stove program and other initiatives to support the displaced and pave the way for their return home.
<b>China earthquake.</b> In May 2008, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake in southwestern China devastated Sichuan and other bordering provinces. Mercy Corps provided blankets, shelter items and clothing to meet immediate emergency needs. Supporting our local partners, Mercy Corps developed two programs to help youth work though the trauma of the earthquake.
<b>Myanmar cyclone.</b> After Cyclone Nargis hit in May 2008, Mercy Corps helped farmers by providing seed and tools so they could replant before the end of the farming season. Mercy Corps rehabilitated community water and sanitation systems and conducted clean-up activities in disaster-affected towns and villages.
<b>Honduras flooding.</b> The October 2008 floods in Honduras affected 250,000 people. Mercy Corps provided technical support and resources to our local partner to restore drinking water in 19 communities and to assist farmers in replanting fields inundated by the floods – thus dramatically reducing the need for food aid.