Private sector partnerships are vital to our refugee response

September 22, 2016

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  • Chehab, his 2 children and his pregnant wife fled Iraq for Europe, only to to find the borders closed. Cash has helped keep them alive in the interim. All photos: Sara Hylton for Mercy Corps.

Life under a constant threat of violence is no way to live.

That’s why Chehab, his 2 children and his pregnant wife fled Iraq for Europe, only to have their pursuit of a better future halted when a deal struck between the European Union and Turkey in March 2016 closed Europe’s borders.

Now the family is stuck in Greece while they wait for the government to process their asylum claim.

Chehab, who has three children now, has no job and no money. But with the help of our supporters, and by using Mastercard technology, Mercy Corps has been able to provide a prepaid cash card that helps Khaled purchase food his children can eat.

“If it wasn't for this cash card, we don't know how we would be alive,” Chehab said.

This is what’s at stake when Mercy Corps engages private sector partners as part of our refugee crisis response. Meeting urgent needs with dignity and an eye towards a brighter future.

Mercy Corps is one of the largest humanitarian operations in the Syrian crisis, reaching about 470,000 people every month in Syria, and millions more in the surrounding countries of Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Jordan. When many refugees fled even further, to Europe, Mercy Corps expanded our Syria crisis response to Greece and the Balkans in August 2015.

Our initial strategy was to meet the needs of refugees quickly passing through. We provided information, access to wi-fi, food, shelter, warm clothes and other support. When Europe’s borders closed, we pivoted quickly to respond to growing needs of families stuck in Greece.

The European refugee crisis is unique, ever-changing and significant. We have reached more than 7.7 million people affected by the Syria crisis alone, yet there are millions of refugees fleeing from other countries, too: Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, just to name a few.

Faced with such a large and dynamic crisis, our private sector partners have been particularly vital to our efforts to help.


Private sector partners have been crucial to help us respond to the ever-changing European refugee crisis.

Recently, we travelled to Greece with four of our key partners in our refugee response — Mastercard, Microsoft, TripAdvisor and Airbnb.

We saw first-hand how the funds contributed by the TripAdvisor traveller community supported refugees to meet their urgent needs, and how Airbnb was able to connect our field teams with housing so that even more donor dollars could reach the people who needed it.

We visited cash distributions with Mastercard and met families who had just received their first access to money in months so that they could buy what they most needed: be it medicine, food or children’s clothes. And we saw teenage girls beginning the path toward healing from the trauma of displacement by participating in an art therapy program, which Microsoft is supporting.

While in the field, these corporate partners continued to see new ways that they can leverage their core businesses, assets, people, communications channels and communities to support the refugee crisis with the bold, creative solutions it requires.

They were inspired by the need and response they saw in the field with Mercy Corps and we, in turn, were inspired by their commitment to the cause.

Working with the private sector is an integral part of Mercy Corps’ approach. We know that business can play an important role in supporting organizations like ours. With their partnership, we can be more effective, efficient, and more innovative.

Contact us today to learn what’s possible when you partner with Mercy Corps.