• Emergency Response

When a disaster hits – whether it’s a drought, tsunami or civil war – Lutheran World Relief works alongside communities over months and years to help them recover and adjust to new realities, ensuring that they are prepared to withstand the next unexpected challenge.

Regardless of whether those challenges are chronic or acute, Lutheran World Relief invests in communities to enable those living in extreme poverty to build the resilience they need to thrive.

Lutheran World Relief was founded in 1945 in response to a global emergency: the massive displacement of people across Europe resulting from the violence of World War II. Our portfolio soon expanded, both geographically as we began programs in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and programmatically, focusing much of our work on sustainable development. But emergency response remains a calling card for Lutheran World Relief.

Approaches to Emergency Response

We employ four Core Program Approaches in planning and carrying out our emergency programs, ensuring the response is appropriate to the particular context, involves the local community and is integrated with approaches that help communities respond to and recover from disasters.

  • Cash Transfers
  • Non-Food Items and Material Resources
  • Quality & Accountability Capacity Strengthening
  • Early Recovery & Livelihood Rehabilitation

Providing cash in an emergency, through cash-for-work or conditional or unconditional grants, is an effective way to meet basic needs while bolstering the livelihoods of people affected by a disaster. Cash transfers allow people to make their own decisions about what to procure while also stimulating local markets.


As much as possible, Lutheran World Relief strives to source non-food items, such as shelter materials, cooking utensils or water purification units, from the local community to support the recovering economy. When that isn’t possible, Lutheran World Relief can tap into relief supplies donated by U.S. Lutherans, such as quilts or personal care kits. Some of these emergency supplies are stored at the United Nations’ Humanitarian Response Depots network around the world for rapid deployment in an emergency.


Lutheran World Relief trains local NGOs and government officials on international humanitarian quality and accountability standards, such as those of the Sphere Project and Humanitarian Accountability Partnership, to ensure the highest quality emergency response that meets the needs of disaster-affected families.


The destruction wrought by natural and human-caused disasters disrupt livelihoods, hindering families’ ability to support themselves and recover. Lutheran World Relief supports early livelihood recovery by providing training and equipment such as seeds and farming tools to agricultural communities, boats and nets to fishing communities, and restocking pastoralist communities’ livestock. We help people “build back better” and increase their resilience to future disasters.