In 2013, we responded to 38 emergencies in 22 countries, directly helping over two million people and indirectly assisting more than seven million. Over 55 per cent were women and girls. We also entered new countries in response to emergencies: Syria and Philippines.

Our aim in emergency situations is to work with local, national and international partners to save lives and meet the immediate needs of the most vulnerable people, providing healthcare, shelter, clean water and food. However, we don’t just deal with the short-term needs of communities affected by disaster; we also work to ensure their long-term recovery and resilience. Well after the crisis period has abated, we continue to help local communities rebuild livelihoods, and strengthen infrastructure, education and healthcare systems.

In countries susceptible to disaster, we undertake Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) activities to limit and prevent the impact of future crises. This might involve introducing drought- resistant crops, planting trees to reduce landslides, building schools and clinics that are hurricane or earthquake resistant or establishing early warning systems to alert people when a crisis is imminent. Some examples of our 2013 emergency activities are as follows:

Typhoon Haiyan

Philippines emergency relief goods
Many thousands of people were left destitute in the wake of Tyhoon Haiyan as it ripped through Philippines. Concern distributed emergency relief goods such as shelter kits, blankets and solar lamps to families in devastated Igbon Banaguy, Concepcion. Photo: Steve de Neef

Typhoon Haiyan, which struck Philippines in November 2013, was one of the strongest storms ever to hit land. More than 13 million people were affected by the typhoon, with over one million houses damaged or destroyed. Concern responded to the immediate needs of 48,831 people in the municipalities of Concepcion and Carles, where a large number of the affected communities were located in small islands off the coast. Here, the majority of homes were of poor quality, generally made of bamboo and thatch and over 80 per cent of them were destroyed when the typhoon hit. We worked with partners to provide shelter kits, blankets, soap, mosquito nets and other essential items.

The Syrian crisis

A child at an informal tented settlement in Lebanon
A child at an informal tented settlement in Lebanon, which is home to more than 30 Syrian families, did not have latrines or access to free, safe drinking water before Concern built the latrines and provided the water tanks, which are filled by a water truck every morning. Photo: Crystal Wells

Concern began working in Syria in 2013 to help people affected by the country’s civil war, which has left 9.3 million Syrians in need of humanitarian assistance. With the health structure severely damaged, limited availability of clean water for drinking, cooking and washing, and damaged sanitation systems, diseases such as typhoid and leishmaniasis are on the rise. Our response focused on providing clean water and control of disease-spreading insects. In 2013, we also entered Lebanon in response to the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing into the country as a result of the conflict. We helped over 12,400 people directly through our water, sanitation and health, and shelter activities. We not only supported the Syrian refugees, but also the Lebanese host communities, to help alleviate the pressure on resources and services caused by the refugee influx.

We worked to create safe, clean living environments by renovating old, unused buildings and set up two formal tented settlements where the most vulnerable refugees could gain access to shelter and other basic necessities such as clean water and toilets. We also worked across a number of other settlements to improve water connections, repair broken sewerage pipes, install latrines and carry out hygiene promotion to ensure access to adequate water and sanitation. We worked with UNHCR to help the most vulnerable people protect themselves in winter, distributing blankets and stoves, and providing timber, plastic sheeting, plywood and tools to reinforce weak tents against the elements.

Rebuilding lives

In 2013, we responded to people impacted by Hurricane Sandy and an outbreak of cholera in Haiti. We wound down many of our relief activities arising from the 2010 earthquake and we helped the Haitian authorities in their work to relocate over 13,500 people living in camps in Saint Martin to permanent and safe housing.

In 2013, we responded to 38 emergencies in 22 countries, directly helping over two million people and indirectly assisting more than seven million. Over 55 per cent were women and girls. We also entered new countries in response to emergencies: Syria and Philippines.

In Pakistan, we continued our joint programming with Alliance2015 members to respond to the relief and early recovery needs caused by the flooding of 2011 and 2012. We provided shelter for affected families, and latrines and hand pumps were constructed and repaired through cash-for-work activities within the community. Food security was increased by the distribution of agricultural inputs to small landholding farmers and vulnerable women.

In North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, we helped 4,000 conflict-affected households to rebuild their livelihoods and become more food secure. We provided seeds and tools, agricultural training and offered cash-for-work for road rehabilitation. A total of 11,280 individuals participated in the cash-for-work activities and 315 households headed by elderly or disabled persons, who were unable to participate with labour, received a cash transfer.

Henriette Kayitesi with her one- year-old daughter, Rachel Zawadi
Henriette Kayitesi with her one- year-old daughter, Rachel Zawadi, at a refugee camp where they are seeking shelter from the conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). War-ravaged DRC is one of the world’s poorest and most dangerous countries and people already living in extreme poverty have been forced to flee their villages to escape the fighting. In North Kivu, Concern has been working to distribute supplies to people in densely-populated camps and villages around the area. Photo: Noel Gavin/Allpix

In response to flooding in Aweil North, South Sudan, Concern distributed kits containing blankets, cooking utensils, plastic sheeting and hygiene materials to 288 households in three camps, where people were living in poorly constructed shelters.

In Somalia, we wound down our programmes relating to the 2012 food crisis but we continued emergency interventions supporting the efforts of the most vulnerable people such as internally displaced people, returnees, the urban poor, pastoralists, and all those affected by conflict and chronic food insecurity, to recover from crises and rebuild their lives and livelihoods. We provided a combination of food vouchers and cash transfers, reaching a total of 6,907 households.

Reducing risks

Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) is a key element of our programming in Afghanistan. In 2013, Concern began working on the first phase of a community based disaster risk management project. So far, task forces have been formed in 27 villages to take the lead on specific activities such as early warning, search and rescue and first aid, and stores of essential items have been pre-stocked in three locations.

Given Pakistan’s severe vulnerability to natural disaster, Concern has established itself as a leader in working with communities on disaster risk reduction. In Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan provinces, where communities are highly vulnerable to natural disasters such as floods and droughts, we helped to reduce the vulnerability of households, whose livelihoods depend on agriculture through the distribution of tools, goats and sheep and small enterprise cash grants. We also delivered entrepreneurship training and helped build access to markets and financial services. To further reduce the vulnerability of rural, agricultural communities, we introduced an agro-forestry nursery and 2,000 agro-forestry plantations using drought- resistant seed varieties, which will help lessen erosion during flooding.

In Sierra Leone, Concern completed an internal Cholera Preparedness Plan for six urban areas perceived to be at risk. As part of the preparedness response, we stockpiled water purification tablets, oral rehydration salts and soap.

We also produced posters and leaflets on cholera prevention and management, and cholera preparedness training was conducted for 260 volunteers across six neighbourhoods in the city. When cases of cholera were confirmed in one of these sections, Concern staff and volunteers distributed 8,850 water purification tablets to 66 households.

Other emergency operations

Baby Unmiss
Baby Unmiss, named after the United Nations Mission to South Sudan. She was born on December 21 in one of the UN compounds in Juba, which has become home to over 16,000 people seeking refuge from the fighting. Her mother Lucia says that she and her extended family are afraid to leave the compound, which is being protected by UNMISS troops. Photo: Kieran McConville

During 2013, Concern met the most immediate needs of hundreds of thousands of people caught up in other crises. Here are just a few examples:

In Mozambique, heavy rains led to major flash flooding affecting hundreds of thousands of people. Concern worked to help over 69,300 people, distributing shelter kits, hygiene items, latrines, seeds, food and solar lights.

In Burundi, we worked with partners to respond to the immediate needs of refugees and displaced people fleeing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo providing food, medical care and other essential items such as soap, blankets and jerry cans.

We responded to severe flooding, and people affected by conflict within the Republic of Sudan, reaching up to 118,900 individuals. In Chad, Concern helped Chadian returnees fleeing conflict in the Republic of Sudan. Coordinating our response with other organisations, the UN and local authorities, we focused on providing food, clean water, sanitation and hygiene promotion