Save the Children works in 117 countries, which means that we can respond to disasters whenever and wherever they happen.  Our job is to save lives and to ensure children and their families are protected. After the acute phase of the emergency, Save the Children helps to ensure children and families can recover from the losses, restore their lives and build their resilience for years to come.

We work with at-risk communities, local partners and governments, so we can act rapidly and reduce disaster risks for children.


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We work in conflict zones with war-affected girls and boys; before, during and after the onset of a natural disaster; and in failed and fragile states. The needs differ depending on the type of emergency, however, Save the Children knows that these are often the most critical:


HEALTH AND NUTRITION – In the midst of crisis, health care and nutrition are crucial. During a war or natural disaster, healthcare facilities can be damaged, destroyed, or otherwise rendered inaccessible in a crisis. Alongside primary health care and reproductive health services, mental health support needs are vitally important. Disasters often increase the risks of spreading infectious diseases, especially if children and communities are forced to take shelter in make-shift structures with no proper toilet facilities and safe drinking water.

Prolonged inaccessibility to food due to war, displacement or destroyed crops 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 harbour diseases form waste materials and quickly transmit infection. Poor hygiene practices and drought can exacerbate the spread of life-threatening illness. The disruption caused by a disaster or displacement put women and girls at risk of being unable to satisfy very basic sanitary needs, including menstrual hygiene.

Through its WASH services, Save the Children provides access to clean water, sanitation supplies and a dignified response to meeting women’s unique sanitary needs in emergency contexts.


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 – 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. Lack of access to safe spaces to learn is one of the most critical factors associated with protection risks, including the recruitment of girls and boys in armed groups, early marriage and child labour.  

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.


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.


BASIC NEEDS – Emergencies often have devastating impacts on people’s homes and their daily lives. Save the Children helps to respond to very basic needs such as shelter items, toiletries, kitchen supplies and buckets. Increasingly, Save the Children provides emergency cash transfers or vouchers to enable people to purchase these life-saving goods in their own communities.