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.
Earthquakes. Hurricanes. Floods. Droughts. Conflict.
When disaster strikes, Concern goes where we are most needed to help the most vulnerable. Our first priority is to deliver lifesaving relief, such as food, shelter, and clean drinking water. Then, after the spotlight has shifted, we stay. Putting communities first and designing our response according to their needs, we partner with these communities as they build resilience and work toward sustainable recovery.
We are partners from the very beginning, a relationship that continues as they move from crisis to recovery and long-term development.
We Focus Disaster Relief on the Most Vulnerable
Whether a natural disaster or war, our emergency response teams go wherever the need is the greatest. Reaching the most vulnerable and overlooked is always top priority. This often means focusing on remote and difficult places where few others are willing to work.
This is in Concern’s DNA: We were founded in response to famine in the breakaway Nigerian state of Biafra, caused by a military blockade. Fr. Raymond Kennedy (our founder’s brother) hitched a lift on an arms flight into a secret jungle airstrip in the small African country. On his return, he organized a charter flight of newsmen into the same airstrip, introducing to the world the horrific effects of war and famine.
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 South Sudan and creating new shelter options for Syrian refugees, to rebuilding boats for fishermen in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan.
We Stay to Build Emergency Preparedness
Our work does not end when the initial emergency is over and the news cameras and first responders pull out. Leveraging the relationships we have built with communities, we transition into a phase of emergency preparedness and disaster management, working in partnership with them to heal, rebuild, and recover. Many of the countries where Concern has development programs today started as emergency responses years and decades ago, a testament to our commitment.
For example, 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.
Likewise, our work in Ethiopia began in 1973 in response to the country’s historic famine. Today we focus on contributing to the government’s efforts to alleviate poverty, while also working to prevent the spread of HIV and providing livelihoods opportunities.
We Build Capacity towards Disaster Relief
We do not simply provide goods and services; we also educate, train, and create environments where humanitarian staff come together to share ideas and experiences. Aid workers from across the humanitarian sector benefit from Concern’s training programs, either online or in-person, gaining skills to strengthen their leadership capacities and coordinate more effectively during emergency responses.
Likewise, our response to the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti embodied the best of Concern, as we stayed with communities through recovery and rebuilding. We stepped forward to build the first temporary shelter site, at Tabarre Issa. 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. Our legacy of impact continues today through an integrated community transformation program in Cite Soleil, another of Port-au-Prince’s most marginalized communities.