This update provides the latest snapshot of the most pressing humanitarian emergencies during this holiday season. Catholic Relief Services teams and partners are carrying out vital emergency relief and recovery efforts around the world. This work is possible thanks to the generous support of private and public donors, the dedication of local partners, and the unwavering presence of Caritas and the local Catholic Church. While conflict, poverty and disease continue to affect millions, this season of light brings hope that—with a continued commitment to assist the most vulnerable—we can make a difference.
Europe - Refugee Crisis
The refugee and migrant crisis continues to grow, with increasing numbers of families fleeing their homes, primarily in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. CRS is responding with its Church partners in Greece, Macedonia, Croatia and Serbia to provide critical assistance that includes medical care, hygiene supplies, hot meals, clothes and showers, as well as information and translation services.
CRS staff on the ground continue to adapt to the rapidly changing operating environment: With borders closing and temperatures dropping, our aim is to support at least 300,000 people with emergency humanitarian assistance.
Middle East Conflict
CRS continues to support people forced from their homes by ongoing violence in Syria and Iraq. We are working with our Caritas partners across the Middle East, including those in Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt, to provide assistance to 800,000 war-affected Syrians. CRS has also served more than 100,000 displaced Iraqis and Iraqi refugees. Our programs include shelter assistance, food, children’s education, trauma counseling, hygiene and sanitation, and medical assistance. And in the United States, we continue to advocate for a U.S. leadership role in negotiating an end to the conflict in Syria, and to ramp up humanitarian assistance in refugee-hosting countries in the Middle East, which are at breaking point.
Ethiopia - Drought
Two failed rainy seasons in 2015 led to seed shortages and a lack of food for people and livestock. Severely reduced harvests raise concerns about food shortages and malnutrition. It is impossible to predict the full scope of humanitarian need for the coming year, but without rain, needs will rise dramatically. Up to 15 million people are expected to face extreme food shortages in the coming months.
CRS is scaling up its emergency food assistance to provide aid to 2.2 million people and continue programs to increase people’s resilience to weather-related crises. Programs include innovations in technology-based early warning systems, disaster preparedness and climate-smart agriculture. CRS is appealing for more U.S. government help for the robust network of humanitarian responders ready to expand their efforts immediately with lifesaving food, water and agricultural help for the next planting season.
Central African Republic - Conflict
After a visit by Pope Francis in November, which brought renewed attention and hope to a country embroiled in conflict for more than 2 years, CRS continues its emergency response to those displaced by the violence as well as grassroots reconciliation and peacebuilding. Since the conflict began, CRS has provided tens of thousands of people with emergency support, including food, seeds and livelihoods for nearly 20,000 families; shelter and living supplies for 12,221 families; and farmer training for many others. Our reconciliation workshops continue to lay the foundation for restoring social cohesion in violence-afflicted communities. To date, CRS has trained nearly 2,000 community leaders in conflict resolution and peacebuilding.
Nigeria - Conflict
Nigerians are fleeing the increasing violence of the militant group Boko Haram, which has carried out attacks in the northeast and killed more than 13,000 people since 2009. At least 1.5 million Nigerians have been displaced, and are living with host families or in camps. Up to 3 million are expected to need humanitarian assistance. CRS is working with local partners and the CORE group in a polio immunization campaign for 250,000 children. We are also providing malaria testing, treatment and prevention measures. In addition, CRS provides monthly food and cash vouchers to thousands displaced by theviolence and the families hosting them.
South Sudan - Conflict
South Sudan has been embroiled in conflict since 2013, with continuing violence having displaced people from their homes. According to the United Nations, some 7.9 million people, or three-quarters of the 12 million South Sudanese, do not have enough to eat. Working since January 2015 in two states affected by the violence, CRS and its Caritas partners have provided food and nutritional supplements to more than 500,000 people. To keep disease outbreaks at bay, we provide thousands of people with access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, and provide farmer training and income opportunities.
Nepal - Earthquake - Early Recovery
CRS and Caritas Nepal are in the early recovery phase of the emergency response—following the powerful earthquake in April—providing support to affected communities across the Gorkha district. During the winter season, cold-weather supplies are critical in high-altitude areas as families will face below-freezing temperatures for months. To date, CRS has provided 130,000 people with critical shelter materials, living supplies, and water treatment and hygiene kits. We are now helping them to lay a foundation for full recovery and to make it through winter.