Humans are causing the global climate crisis to escalate—resulting in more floods, hurricanes, droughts, fires and other natural disasters each year. At the same time, authoritarianism and political and economic instability in countries around the world are causing a surge in humanitarian crises, including mass migrations of refugees fleeing violence and genocide. Further deepening these challenges is COVID-19, which continues to claim lives and exacerbate inequity in every country where AJWS works.
In the wake of a climate disaster or humanitarian crisis, people are left reeling, devastated by the loss of family, friends and their homes. In the immediate aftermath, people struggle to find the food, water and shelter they need to survive. The systems people rely on in their societies—schools, medical care, jobs and government services—are often disrupted. In low-income countries, these systems may collapse entirely, as they were already fragile before disasters strike.
While a disaster can strike anywhere on earth, we are not all affected equally. Women and girls, LGBTQI+ people, Indigenous and rural poor communities and religious and ethnic minorities already face significant inequities or violence in their daily lives, and disasters dramatically exacerbate these injustices. Poor and marginalized communities perpetually bear the brunt of humanitarian crises around the world—and often have the fewest resources to rebuild their homes, communities and lives.
The effects of these crises and disasters don’t end when flood waters recede and houses are rebuilt—they can reverberate for years. And too often, vulnerable communities are left behind, as their governments and international aid efforts often fail to meet their needs or protect their human rights during recovery efforts.
How We Make Change
AJWS grantee partners around the world fight for the human rights of some of the most marginalized and persecuted people on earth; when their communities experience an emergency, these partners step up to ensure that the right kinds of support and material aid reaches those who need it most. This year, AJWS supported 30 organizations to respond to both climate disasters and human-made crises.
AJWS responds rapidly—mobilizing financial support from our donors and supporting our partners on the ground to rush immediate aid to the frontlines and assess the specific needs of their communities for long-term support. From food, clean water, medical supplies, cash-based assistance and emergency shelters after an earthquake or hurricane, to masks and other personal protective equipment throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, AJWS humanitarian response funding addresses the critical needs of communities with nowhere else to turn. AJWS also responds to smaller disasters that don’t make the U.S. news or elicit international aid responses.
In the months and years following a disaster, vulnerable communities consistently see their needs disregarded and their human rights diminished by their own governments. That’s why AJWS goes beyond providing immediate humanitarian aid—we stay the course, investing in efforts to create lasting change as these communities recover and rebuild.
What’s more, we address underlying human rights issues that escalate during crises. For example, domestic violence and violence against marginalized populations surge during and long after a disaster, as people buckle under the stress of their new reality. AJWS supports activist organizations to provide psychosocial and legal support for survivors, ensuring that people can care for their own mental health and fight for justice.
Over the past several years, AJWS has supported activists to respond to a tsunami in Indonesia, dual hurricanes that tore through Guatemala and Nicaragua, an earthquake in Haiti and the harrowing Delta variant surge of COVID-19 in India. These activists have saved lives and helped to rebuild communities, while fighting to create more equitable societies for all people.