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Topic 9

Responding to Emergencies

humanitarian action

Fast Facts

Currently there are more than 50 million people displaced by war, human rights violations, and natural and environmental disasters in over 50 countries. Emergencies


Since 1980 almost half of the world’s least developed countries have suffered from a major conflict.

Estimates indicate that developing countries will bear 75-80 per cent of the damage costs caused by the changing climate.

In Depth

Responding to emergencies—humanitarian action

‘Responding to humanitarian emergencies is an essential part of CARE’s work to fight poverty and injustice and we recognize that emergencies are a cause and effect of both. CARE helps people cope with crises through disaster risk reduction, emergency relief, preparedness and post-crisis recovery’  – CARE’s Emergency Response Mandate

Emergency responses are actions taken and measures planned prior to, during and immediately after natural and man-made disasters to ensure the effects are minimised, and that people affected are given immediate relief and support.

Types of emergencies

There are two main types of humanitarian crises that require emergency response: natural disasters and conflicts. The fight against poverty is often most difficult after one of these events.

Natural disasters such as cyclones, droughts, earthquakes, tsunamis and floods have claimed the lives of over one million people in the past decade. Armed conflicts cost lives and force local people to flee their homes in search of safety in nearby towns and countries. Both types of emergencies require a rapid and effective response to meet immediate needs and ensure populations don’t become more impoverished in the long-term.


Emergencies and poverty

Emergencies often disproportionately affect the poorest people in the world.

Limited access to information, a lack of resources and adequate infrastructure such as health, other services and good governance, along with the impacts of climate change all mean that the world’s poor are often most at risk when it comes to emergencies. In emergency situations, survival usually depends on access to clean water, shelter, food, healthcare and sanitation facilities, while education and economic opportunities help recovery over the longer-term.

Learn more by reading the case study below and introducing some of the individuals CARE works with to your class.

Dina* from Banda Aceh, Indonesia ©Josh Estey/CARE

Boxing Day tsunami: Dina’s Story

Today is Dina’s 12th birthday. When I first met her after the tsunami, she was two years old, and she was dying.

Read More

CARE’s response

For organisations like CARE, responding to humanitarian emergencies is an essential component of our work. As part of our overall assistance to poor communities, we reinforce and build resilience to future emergencies by helping them to plan and prepare for disasters before they happen.

CARE’s projects directly assist survivors of natural disasters and conflict through immediate relief and longer-term community support in rebuilding. For example, during the aftermath of the devastating 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, CARE helped in two phases. First by providing food, temporary shelter, clean water, sanitation services and medical care to those communities most affected by the disaster. Secondly, by helping communities rebuild their lives and homes over the longer term.

Did you find this page interesting and useful? Share it with your teaching community.

Teaching This Topic

Teaching Notes

Around the world, disasters and emergencies are increasingly becoming the norm. Humanitarian crises, such as natural events and continued conflict, often disproportionately impact those who live in some of the world’s poorest communities.

This topic can be incorporated into the curriculum of several subjects including Geography and Media Studies. The subject material is suitable for most year levels at your discretion.

Continue reading the next chapter: Responding to Emergencies

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CARE Australia
PO Box 372 Collins Street West
Melbourne VIC 8007

Phone +61 3 9421 5572
Fax +61 3 9421 5593