Emergencies and Survival

Every child has the right to survival

In addition to development work, Save the Children is a recognized leader in disaster response. Whenever and wherever disaster strikes, we are there, working tirelessly to meet children’s unique health, nutrition, education, and protection needs.

In 2014 Save the Children responded to over 103 humanitarian crises around the world. We reached over 4 million children affected by conflicts, disease outbreaks, floods and cyclones.

In any crisis, children are always the most vulnerable. We make sure that children affected by floods, famines, earthquakes, diseases outbreaks and armed conflict get life-saving medical aid, shelter, food and water – fast. We safeguard children and help reunite separated families. And we help children recover from crises by providing emotional support and safe places to learn and play.

We prepare ourselves and at-risk communities, so we can act rapidly and reduce disaster risks for children. After large-scale emergencies such as Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, and the Haitian and Nepal earthquakes we remain on the ground to help children and their families rebuild their lives.

When disaster strikes, we have to act – fast.

While the nature and scale of our support is determined by the type of emergency, we prioritize the following projects:


Health and nutrition

In the aftermath of disasters, health care and nutrition are crucial. Healthcare facilities can be damaged, destroyed, or otherwise rendered inaccessible in a crisis. Alongside health services, mental health support needs are vitally important. Following disasters the risks of spreading infectious diseases are large, especially if children and communities are forced to take shelter in make-shift structures with no proper toilet facilities and safe drinking water.

Proper nutrition is also an issue following an emergency, as livelihoods and infrastructures can be easily damaged which can negatively impact the nutritional vulnerability of young children and pregnant and lactating women. Save the children works to support healthcare needs, and provide life-saving nutritional and medical assistance to children suffering from acute malnutrition.


WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene)

Poor access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services can lead to life-threatening illnesses and children are often the hardest-hit. Small, stagnant bodies of water can harbor diseases form waste materials and quickly transmit infection. Poor hygiene practices and drought can exacerbate the spread of life-threatening illness.

Through its WASH services, Save the Children provides access to clean water and sanitation supplies in emergency contexts.


Food security and livelihoods

Food security and livelihood programs aim to provide families affected by natural disasters or conflict with access to life-saving livelihoods and enough food to meet their immediate needs. This can include providing cash-for-work opportunities to help disaster-affected families earn an income while rebuilding their communities. It can also include providing livestock, seeds, tools and agricultural training to families whose livelihoods have been affected by a crisis such as forced displacement or drought.


Child protection

Children have a right to protection from violence in emergencies. Children are extremely vulnerable during a humanitarian crisis. They are at risk of recruitment into armed forces and groups, sexual violence, separation from their families, psychosocial distress, trafficking and economic exploitation, genocide, physical violence, killing and maiming, and other forms of harm. Family separation and the breakdown of national and community-based child protection systems make girls and boys especially vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, violence and neglect. Discriminatory attitudes and practices that existed prior to the emergency often intensify during a humanitarian crisis, and children become excluded from life-saving child protection services or information due to their gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability.



Education in Emergencies is the provision of uninterrupted, high-quality learning opportunities for children affected by humanitarian crises. It is about making sure children can learn regardless of who they are, where they live or what is happening around them.

Education in emergencies is a global strategic focus for Save the Children. We want the same learning outcomes for children caught up in humanitarian crises as for those who are not and, therefore, will develop our programme approaches to function across a full spectrum of contexts. We believe that the context of a humanitarian crisis requires specific and deliberate focus and we will increase the scope, scale and quality of our education in emergencies.



In the wake of a disaster, many people are forced from their homes to temporary shelters or are living in damaged homes. These temporary solutions are not sufficient for severe and/or cold weather. Without proper shelter in such conditions, the population, particularly children, are increasingly vulnerable to ill health and disease (especially acute respiratory infections), exposure and insecurity.

Many families begin the work of rebuilding themselves, but without proper education around construction and safety standards.

Save the Children works to provide the necessary supplies and knowledge to ensure shelter is provided quickly, and rebuilding is done safely.

What We Do

Save the Children works in the world’s most disaster-prone countries. This means that our staff are often already in-country carrying out longer-term development work before disasters hit. As a result, we are able to quickly mobilize an emergency response.

We believe that everyone has the right to receive aid in an emergency. But, because women and children face disproportionate risks in emergencies – such as forcible displacement and human rights violations – our emergency response is geared to meet their immediate needs.

To ensure that our emergency relief efforts are efficient and effective, Save the Children:

  • Takes a collaborative approach to emergency work by engaging in a wide variety of humanitarian partnerships at regional and national levels
  • Co-leads the UN’s Education Cluster with UNICEF, helping ensure that education support in emergencies is well-coordinated
  • Maintain supply hubs around the world stocked with the necessities of life such as medicines, hygiene and shelter kits, as well as blankets and water purification sachets
  • Fundraises year-round for our Children’s Emergency Fund, ensuring that we are able to react quickly and deploy resources whenever disaster strikes

How We’re Different

While other first-responders may leave a disaster zone after the first phase of relief and recovery, Save the Children remains to help people build back better. Save the Children was working in Pakistan in 2010 when the country experienced its worst flooding in recorded history. That same year we were already in Haiti when the devastating earthquake levelled the capital. We were in western Africa before the onslaught of Ebola in 2014, and in Nepal before the earthquakes of 2015. We’re still there today, too, rebuilding communities, ensuring children have access to health care and a chance to go to school, and helping improve the quality of life for millions of people.

To learn more about our current emergencies, please click here.