Emergency Preparedness, Mitigation and Response
CRS was founded as a disaster assistance organization, when in 1943 it set out to assist war-affected populations in Europe. Through the years, CRS has spent considerable time, energy and donations on emergency programs and has been present during some of the largest emergencies of recent including the Indian Ocean tsunami, the Haiti earthquake and the Pakistan floods.
The organization responds to natural disasters and human-made emergencies. While each emergency has unique causes, each has similar effects on the quality of human life. In CRS’ emergency preparedness, mitigation and response, our main goals are to save lives, protect people’s rights, support livelihoods and strengthen civil society.
A strategic approach
Capacity Building. CRS works to continuously improve its capacity to respond rapidly to emergencies. This includes strengthening CRS and partner staff knowledge and experience in mounting and organizing responses related to providing food and materials for basic necessities, shelter and community infrastructure, and water and sanitation. (Click here to read more about the early and recovery phases.) Capacity building also includes developing rigorous systems such as supply chain, human resource and financial management. CRS works with a wide variety of partners in disaster situations. Partners can include local communities, local churches, local and international non-governmental organizations, local governments and United Nations agencies. As a member of the Caritas Internationalis Federation, CRS also coordinates with other members during emergency responses.
Disaster risk reduction. Earthquakes, hurricanes and even human conflicts often impact the impoverished more than the least vulnerable people. CRS’ disaster risk reduction (DRR) work bridges development, emergency, and recovery programming and prepares communities for natural disasters, and helps communities to prevent or minimize future disasters. DRR activities include helping communities create emergency preparedness plans and improving agriculture and natural resource management to adapt to climate change. In Gaza, CRS is working to help organizations design and implement DRR projects in complex emergencies in urban, conflict-prone areas. Click here for more information about this project.
Protection. Protection activities aim to preserve and ensure the safety, fundamental rights and dignity of vulnerable people, particularly those in contexts of displacement (refugees, internally displaced people, migrants). While the primary obligation to provide protection rests with States, it is commonly accepted today that the responsibility to protect communities extends beyond states and mandated agencies (UNHCR; UNICEF; OHCHR; ICRC) to all who respond in humanitarian contexts. For CRS, this means inserting protection principles and approaches in all levels of our response, starting with the emergency phase.
Who do these activities reach?
CRS provides humanitarian aid to the poor who are generally more affected by disasters as they do not have safety nets to rely upon in times of crisis. CRS also analyzes age and gender issues in its projects to ensure that its responses take into account the special needs of the most vulnerable groups. CRS is committed to being accountable to all stakeholders about the commitments the agency makes to assist the most vulnerable, putting those we serve in affected communities at the forefront.
Ensuring quality emergency programs
CRS ensures its emergency preparedness, mitigation and response programs are in line with agency and international humanitarian standards. It is an implementing agency of the Emergency Capacity Building Project, a member of ALNAP (Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian action) and a contributor to The Sphere Project. CRS emergency programs apply the agency design, monitoring and evaluation standards and seek to improve responses through practices such as real-time evaluations (real time evaluations and other evaluative reports by CRS are available from the ALNAP Evaluative Reports Database (search under "Commissioning agency" Catholic Relief Services).