The COVID-19 epidemic will touch everyone in some way. But there are some communities that are much more at risk than others, and they include almost everyone with whom we work.
Concern has disaster response in its DNA — our values were forged in the fires and famine of the Biafran War 50 years ago, and today that stills holds true. Whether it’s an earthquake, a typhoon, floods, drought, or conflict, we’ve seen it all and we’re ready and able to deliver assistance. Here’s what we do.
- Focus on the most vulnerable
- Do whatever it takes
- Stay on
- Help build resilience and capacity
We Focus Disaster Relief on the Most Vulnerable
Whether it’s a natural disaster or a war, our emergency response teams will always go wherever the need is the greatest. This often means focusing on remote and difficult places where few others are willing to work — but reaching the most vulnerable and overlooked always has top priority.
When the 2015 earthquake devastated Nepal, we sent teams far into the mountains to reach communities who had received little or no help. The logistics were complicated and the terrain was difficult — severe aftershocks triggered landslides and blocked roads — but the goal was clear. We were needed and we were there.
When famine struck South Sudan in 2017, it was the most isolated families who suffered most. Displaced and terrified, thousands fled to take shelter on tiny islands in the swamps of Unity State. There they were relatively safe from the conflict that drove them from their homes, but terribly vulnerable to hunger. Working closely with local partners, our teams traveled by helicopter, canoe, and on foot to bring assistance.
We Do Whatever It Takes
Concern customizes each and every response based on the needs of the communities we serve. Before we take any action in emergency operations or disaster situations, we listen closely to those affected to understand their concerns to ensure our actions are culturally appropriate and guided by local priorities. This means that our emergency response programs can vary greatly, from treating malnourished children in Somalia to water-trucking for drought-stricken communities in Ethiopa.
We always work in partnership with others — coordinating with community organizations, local authorities, and other aid agencies makes absolute sense when it comes to getting the job done. Forging strong working relationships makes every response more effective and more efficient, and we’ve been doing it for years.
We stay on, to help rebuild and recover
We firmly believe our work does not end when the initial emergency is over and the news cameras and first responders have pulled out. Leveraging the relationships we have built with communities, we work in partnership with them to heal, rebuild, and recover.
When Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the remote islands of the northern Philippines, many lives were lost. But so too were many livelihoods — the huge storm surge had wiped out most of the local the fishing fleet. We sat down with communities and came up with a plan, which resulted in the Concern boatyard… and a path to recovery for thousands.
Concern’s innovative Child Survival programs grew from serving 21,000 people in targeted communities in Bangladesh in 1998 to impacting the lives of more than 3 million people across Bangladesh, Burundi, Haiti, Kenya, Niger, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone.
Our response to the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti embodied the best of Concern, as we stayed with communities through recovery and rebuilding. With partners, we pioneered the Return To Neighborhoods program that helped thousands move from camps into safe, secure housing. We also worked with partners to help transform the community of Grand Ravine, home to some 20,000 people, building critical infrastructure, providing cash-for-work and livelihoods training, and working to build peace and community ownership.
We help Build Capacity and resilience
If it happens once, there’s a good chance it will happen again — especially in countries and regions where natural disaster have become more commonplace. It’s important to be prepared, and we have been working with local organizations from all over the world to help build their their humanitarian capacity. Training programs run in conjunction with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and International Medical Corps provide professionals with the vital skills they will need to respond.
In countries like Chad, we have encouraged local communities to map out their own vulnerabilities, build resilience, and have a plan in place for when disaster strikes. It’s one of the most efficient and effective ways to protect themselves — and Concern provides resources, knowledge, and support.
Responding to (and preparing for) emergencies is just part of what we do — but it’s a vital component of our work and we continuously strive to be faster, better, and more efficient at how we do it.