Responding to Emergencies

Every year, emergencies like floods, famines, earthquakes and wars, put millions of lives in danger. With the Jewish community behind us, we respond to these disasters by providing emergency aid as well as supporting longer term recovery efforts.

In recent years, we have helped hundreds of thousands of people across more than 20 countries to survive and recover from life-changing events.

Please check our news pages for the most up-to-date information on current and recent humanitarian programmes.

Our humanitarian work includes three key strands:

  1. We help at-risk communities prepare for disasters. This is part of our commitment to mitigate against the impact of climate change, which poses a very real and dangerous threat to many poor communities around the world.
  2. We respond to both natural and man-made disasters when they occur, offering immediate relief and life-saving support.
  3. We help communities to rebuild after a disaster, supporting them to build back better in terms of both infrastructure, especially homes, and with sustainable and climate-resilient livelihoods.

Our Climate Crisis Response


As temperatures rise and rainfall patterns change, disruptions to our food, water, energy security, health, jobs, movement, infrastructure, and economies are already being reported in every region of the world. Climate-related disasters such as floods, droughts, tropical cyclones, landslides, heatwaves, wildfires and sandstorms are becoming more intense, occurring more regularly, and affecting new areas.

The greatest injustice of the climate crisis is that the impacts are falling disproportionately on the world’s most vulnerable people, including people living in poverty, reliant on rainfed farming, marginalised groups, children, women, older people and people with disabilities. All of this means that World Jewish Relief cannot ignore the humanitarian imperative to do everything in our power to address the climate crisis.

At World Jewish Relief, we are at an early stage in our Call to Climate Action. So far:

We have signed up to the Climate and Environment Charter for Humanitarian Organisations. The Charter commits us to take several actions on climate, including reducing our own emissions, and responding to increased humanitarian needs. Click here to read more about our commitments under the Charter.

We have developed a three-pronged strategy for climate action:

  1. Develop a Strategy for Environmental Sustainability, whereby we will reduce our carbon emissions, as well as our impact on local environments that we are working in.
  2. Build community's capacity to cope with the changing climate. This means not only responding to more disasters with immediate relief and long-term recovery, but also working with communities over longer time periods, to prevent disasters from happening, and to ensure that people’s livelihoods will continue even as their climate conditions change. We are currently implementing the first of these Climate Resilience Programmes – in Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Click here to read more about the work we are doing
  3. Mainstream ‘climate’ across all of our core programme areas. This means that we will work with our farmers in eastern Africa who are being impacted by droughts and floods, to ensure that they are using resilient crops and farming techniques. And our support for older people in eastern Europe may include new activities to ensure that people are able to cope with the worsening heatwaves. 

Our Covid-19 Response

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Rohingya children at Cox's Bazar refugee camp are taught handwashing

As Covid-19 spread globally, we quickly pivoted across all of our portfolios to ensure we were supporting those in greatest need. For our Humanitarian portfolio this included supporting the most vulnerable in India, Nepal, Mozambique and Haiti among others, where Covid-19 is still exacerbating existing challenges.

We have been providing PPE, handwashing stations, hygiene equipment, information leaflets and many other forms of support to vulnerable communities around the world, and will continue to do so as long as the need exists.


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Distribution of shelter kits

In March 2019 Tropical Cyclone Idai devastated Central Mozambique and parts of Zimbabwe and Malawi, killing more than 1,000 people and affecting 3 million, making it one of the worst tropical cyclones to hit Africa on record.

Extreme winds, Tsunami-like waves, and storm surges battered the coastal areas of Mozambique and flooded the region, destroying hundreds of thousands of homes and two million acres of crops. 

With the support of the British Jewish community we launched a rapid humanitarian response, partnering with a trusted local NGO, ADPP and ensuring we were amongst the first to access international emergency aid stocks.   

We are still working in Mozambique, delivering long-term livelihood recovery programmes for those affected by the disaster. Working with small farming clubs, we are providing access to seeds and livestock, infrastructure reconstruction such as water tanks, and technical support, helping to rebuild lives for the future.

Mozambique: Amelia's Story

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Amelia with her youngest child

Amelia and her four young children were fast asleep when the cyclone struck. Water began pouring through the roof of their home, waking Amelia with a start and giving her just enough time to grab her kids and run before the whole building collapsed.

Her nearby farmland was deluged, destroying her crops of maize, tomatoes and other veg that she relies upon to feed her family. 

Her husband, a seasonal farmer, was away working so Amelia found herself and her children alone, starving and with no shelter or access to sanitation facilities.

Within days, we were able to provide the family with shelter and kitchen kits.  Amelia said "This will help me so much, I didn’t have a roof to put over my head so I will use the tarpaulin as a cover for myself and my children and now that I have a small pot I can cook for them and share some food with my neighbours.  It's not my home back but it's a start, thank you". 


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A distribution of food in rural Sangnilaya, Nicaragua

During the span of just two weeks during November 2020, Central America was battered by two separate hurricanes, Eta and Iota. Eta, the first hurricane, caused an unprecedented level of damage throughout Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala. The damage was compounded by Hurricane Iota, which followed a remarkably similar storm path as Eta.

In Nicaragua alone, 1.8 million people were affected and 43,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by the hurricanes.

We worked with our local partner Nitlapan, to provide essential sanitary kits and water filtration systems, as well as some first aid kits, to over 6,000 people in 9 communities devastated by the hurricanes. 

Our response in Nicaragua was partially funded by our Disaster Fund. The Disaster Fund is a critical component of World Jewish Relief’s humanitarian assistance programme. It enables us to respond rapidly and effectively when a disaster hits, even when it is smaller scale or has attracted minimal media attention. Click here to make a donation to the Disaster Fund, and help us get humanitarian support to those who need it most.

Our emergency response has ensured:

people have been assisted with evacuations, food support, and fuel to survive the winter since the outbreak of conflict in Eastern Ukraine
people in Northern Kenya received cash allowances to help them survive the drought in East Africa.
farmers who lost their livelihoods in 2015 earthquake in Nepal were helped to increase their yields and profit from their activities so that they could rebuild their destroyed homes and establish better lives
unaccompanied minors stranded in Greece received social and legal support
50 homes have been repaired in Haiti after they were destroyed by Hurricane Matthew

Our approach:

After disasters occur, World Jewish Relief responds rapidly, reaching out to local partners on the ground and designing critical emergency and recovery interventions.  

  • We always prioritise the needs of women and girls, who we know always bear the brunt of responsibilites and consequences during any crisis. 
  • All of our humanitarian responses are provided in partnership with capable local agencies who have passed our high standards of scrutiny.  We believe local agencies know their communities, can access the most vulnerable people, understand the cultural context and will still be there when international agencies have left.
  • Our support is tailored to each specific context, and we have experience in providing a range of services, including food and other basic provisions, shelter, sanitation and hygiene facilities, cash assistance and livelihood support.
  • We are members of The Start Network and the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief.  We have a Special Consultative Status with UN ECOSOC and are signatories to the NGO/Red Cross Code of Conduct and the Charter for Change
  • At times of emergency, we respond with the backing of all major Jewish community organisations.
  • We aim to respond as quickly as we can, and at times to pre-empt certain crises before they happen. To allow us to do this effectively, we operate a Disaster Preparedness Initiative establishing global partnerships in vulnerable counties so that we are ready to respond if disaster occurs.