Dealing with disasters

When disasters strike, who hurts the most?

Of all the people killed or affected by disasters around the world, a massive 92 per cent of them are living in poor countries. If you’re poor, disasters can destroy the little that people have, making a hard life even harder. Without the usual safety nets of savings or insurance, people can be left with nothing, having to rebuild their lives from scratch.

Tearfund have over forty years' experience of responding to the emergency of disasters: floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons, and the misery caused by slow-onset disasters such as food crises or conflict.

We operate in a range of ways to prevent and respond to the suffering that a major disaster can cause, doing everything we can to make sure the people most vulnerable to disasters will be impacted as little as possible..

We respond to disasters when they happen

  • We implement Tearfund disaster response teams and respond directly in situations of overwhelming need, where there are no local partners, or where the scale of the emergency is too great for our partners’ capacity. We currently have Tearfund operational disaster response programmes in Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Philippines.
  • We respond through our partners, particularly in smaller-scale disasters that may not hit the headlines, where their expertise and local knowledge is invaluable in identifying the greatest needs, to work with communities to help provide immediate aid in food, shelter and basic life essentials.
  • We support local Christians and churches on the ground, who are mindful of reaching out to people where the need is greatest, and are conscious of the pastoral support communities need following a disaster.

We help communities with long-term disaster recovery

We work through local partners and churches who know their communities and stay there to provide longer-term facilities for recovery such as safe places for children to play and learn, training, and cash-for-work schemes, helping to re-establish livelihoods.

7.6 million
people have been helped by Tearfund to recover from and prepare for disasters since 2006

has been spent on helping people prepare for, responding to, and recover from disasters during 2013-2014 

of all people killed or impacted by disasters globally live in poor communities

We equip communities to prepare for disasters before they strike

In the most vulnerable places around the world, we help people work together to develop a plan, recognise early warning signs, and know what to do when the worst happens. Being prepared saves lives, homes, property, and helps people to feel less vulnerable. It also lessens the impact of the next disaster when it comes, reducing casualties and keeping people safe. We also work to build back better where possible following disasters. 

Whether it’s cyclone-proof shelters in Bangladesh, encouraging planting to resist soil erosion during flooding in Ethiopia, or improving access to caves for shelter following super typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, we tie our recovery work in with planning for the future wherever we can. That way, when recurring disasters hit again, their impact is reduced, lives are saved, and recovery is faster.

We're recognised for our expertise in disaster response

We’re signatories of the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief. The code includes principles such as impartiality, accountability, participation, dignity, building capacity and reducing vulnerability, which are reflected in Tearfund’s Quality Standards. We’re operate within a global network of partners and have had direct operational experience since 1994. We’re certified with the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership, and are members of the Disasters Emergency Committee, as well as being funding recipients for ECHO, OFDA, amongst others.

Focus on: Afghanistan

Widespread flooding hit the north of Afghanistan April 2014, but, like so many places where Tearfund and our partners work, it didn’t hit the headlines. Thankfully, Tearfund operational teams and partners were already in place, ready to respond to save lives and help with recovery in a region much of the world has forgotten.

Around 44,000 people were affected by the flood, thousands of animals were killed and property, farmland and roads were destroyed. Gulbahar*, a grandmother from Khaja Dukoo District, says, ‘I have never experienced anything like it in my lifetime. All our belongings were in the house and all of them were destroyed by flood.’

After she and her family had been airlifted to safety, Tearfund teams were on hand to help with the recovery: ‘[Tearfund] gave me a tent with other materials for my family, which made me very happy. I hope that I will not experience such a horrible flood again in my life.’

We first set up a Tearfund operational disaster response team in Afghanistan in 2001, when a major drought triggered an emergency appeal, raising £3 Million. We’ve worked directly in the country ever since, doing humanitarian work and disaster response, as well as helping communities prepare for disasters.

We've also supported our local partners in Afghanistan since 1971, as they remain in place, helping communities develop in the longer-term, providing permanent clean water and sanitation, setting up self-help groups to promote livelihoods, advocating for people with disabilities, running education and literacy programmes, and training in people agriculture.

*not her real name

As the climate changes and weather patterns become more extreme and erratic, natural disasters are happening more often and with greater impact. Tearfund want to respond to disasters wherever they strike, but we need to be ready. Please help us to have the resources we need to act quickly. Give to our disasters fund and help support those who, when the worst happens, desperately need your help.

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