Disaster Relief

A woman tests a wall with equipment

An IAEA team of experts in Lebanon helps examine the integrity of buildings impacted in last year’s port explosion in Beirut. The team is training nationals in conducting non-destructive testing.

two children caught in a sand storm

A disaster occurs when there is a serious disruption in the way we function as a community or a society because of how a hazardous event, such as a flood, heatwave, drought or earthquake, impacts us. “Impact” is the key word here. We saw it last year when a record 30 named storms hit Central America, devastating homes and families. And floods in East Africa through to the Sahel affected millions of people, forcing many to flee their homes. As the changing climate increasingly throws us curve balls, we must be prepared to face extreme weather-related events. Fortunately, the world does have a plan - the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030).


mother and baby

For the past five months, Meddisha Johnson, a resident of the community of Georgetown on the Leeward side of Saint Vincent expected that she would have to leave her home at a moment’s notice as the La Soufriere Volcano in the mountains above her family’s home rumbled to life. On the afternoon of 8 April 2021, Meddesha and 20,000 residents in the designated red zone were issued with a mandatory evacuation order. They were mostly packed and waiting and speedily boarded private or government-provided transportation to journey to the 60- plus government shelters which were opened in the Eastern Caribbean country’s safe zone. For Meddesha there was additional worry for the safety of her one-month-old daughter Emily. Thankfully, Meddesha and most of the residents in the danger zone were able to  escape in time and watched from the safety of their temporary homes in shelters as the volcano erupted, sending ash plumes spewing 20,000 feet into the air, less than 12 hours after the mandatory evacuation order was given.

Two men pulling Jens Tranum Kristensen on a stretcher from the rubble of MINUSTAH

"It was a Close Protection Officer...who heard me. Had I not decided to knock exactly at that point in time, they would have repaired the backhoe [and] started to dig. They would’ve destabilised the area over which I was lying and I would not be sitting here today."

girl jumping over tires

Juana plays outside at a shelter in Campur in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. Juana is one of more than 900,000 children in Guatemala affected by the two hurricanes, which struck in quick succession and left landslides and massive flooding across the region. UNICEF has been working with the government, which has been developing a strategy for the opening of safe spaces—a challenge complicated by the ongoing risk of COVID-19. The strategy includes training volunteers on ‘Return to Joy’, a play-based approach culturally adapted to each community that uses child-to-child techniques to help children cope with upheaval.

a family walking along the shore

Four years ago, the village of Duduwa, in the district of Banke in the south of Nepal, was hit by heavy monsoon rains. Crops were destroyed. Food insecurity in one of the world’s poorest countries got worse. Last July, WFP distributed cash to 2,700 people in the flood-prone Banke and Bardiya districts, targeting families headed by disabled people, older people, and women. In this article, they share their stories of loss and devastation. The Sunars lost cherished family photographs in the floods. WFP-distributed cash support provides vulnerable communities with the means to secure essential items in anticipation of floods.

child after storm in Mozambique

Children living in the affected areas, particularly those who have been displaced, could soon be at risk of contracting waterborne diseases like cholera and diarrheal infections. The powerful storm, which made landfall on 23 January, brought with it torrential rain and strong winds of up to 160 kilometers per hour, leaving a swath of damaged and destroyed houses, farmland and vital infrastructure in its wake. UNICEF’s emergency teams deployed to Beira before Cyclone Eloise hit and are currently helping to assess the damage to ensure a swift and effective relief operation.

elderly woman sits in ruins with box of food

Nosiba Khatun sits amongst the ashes of what used to be her home, her only possession now is the food assistance she just received from WFP. 500 shelters were destroyed in the fire. Within just hours of fire breaking out, WFP sprung into action. It has provided around 3,500 people from the camps, and the wider community, with more than 21,000 hot meals. Nosiba is one of 22,500 Rohingya refugees who live in the Nayapara Registered Refugee Camp in Cox's Bazar, which is run by UNHCR. She and her family have been living here since the 1990s when one of the first groups of Rohingya fled violence in Myanmar and sought safety in neighbouring Bangladesh. 

People work together to build a temporary shelter.

The UNESCO World Heritage site of Saint-Louis is fighting a problem that is all too common to coastal cities – erosion caused by rising seas. As part of the Saint-Louis Emergency Recovery and Resilience Project, UNOPS is implementing the Relocation of the Displaced Populations of the Langue de Barbarie Project. As part of the project, more than 400 shelters will be built. These will provide housing to more than 1,400 people and serve as a temporary school and be used for offices.

People salvage wooden beams to rebuild destroyed structures.

Nicaragua: ‘It’s scary to listen to the sounds of nature’

UNFPA aid worker helping a mother with children at a shelter

Women and girls in Honduras are at high risk in the aftermath of Hurricane Eta. More than 400,000 women have been directly affected by the widespread destruction and are now left without access to essential health services. More than 1.6 million people throughout the country have been affected. Some 12,000 are now staying in shelters, a precarious situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. UNFPA is supporting a rapid needs assessment and working to restore access to sexual and reproductive health services.

typhoon survivors and WFP staff

Typhoon Goni left several towns inaccessible and destroyed thousands of homes in the Philippines. WFP is working with UN sister agencies to gauge the food, shelter, electricity and emergency telecommunication requirements of survivors.

An ocean wave

In 2020, World Tsunami Awareness Day (5 Nov) encourages the development of national and community-level, local disaster risk reduction strategies to save more lives against disasters. By the year 2030, about half of the world's population will live in coastal areas exposed to flooding, storms and tsunamis. Having plans and policies in place to reduce tsunami impacts will help to build more resilience and protect populations at risk. The UN works with partners to educate the public, organize drills, and create evacuation routes to avoid heavy loss of life when the next tsunami comes.

flooded area

A UN report published to mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction on October 13, confirms how extreme weather events have come to dominate the disaster landscape in the 21st century. The report “The Human Cost of Disasters 2000-2019” registers a sharp increase of extreme weather events over the previous twenty years, with much of the difference explained by a rise in climate-related disasters. Globally, there were around 6,700 climate-related disasters including severe floods and storms in the time-period 2000-2019 compared to 3,600 climate-related disasters compared to the time-frame 1980-1999.

men rowing in inflatable boat

Reducing climate change effects and risks in Bosnia and Herzegovina