Disaster Relief

Responding to Disasters: What Is Involved?

According to the International Disaster Database, natural disasters kill 60,000 people per year. Famine, drought, earthquakes, flooding, tsunamis, wildfires, mudslides, hurricanes, epidemics and pandemics like COVID-19 can push even the most resilient people into a crisis. But natural disasters don’t always hit the most resilient people.

When a natural disaster strikes, people in low- and middle-income countries feel the effects more greatly and often pay a higher price.

In the aftermath of a natural disaster, people need to be taken care of. They may need immediate treatment for physical injuries or help finding safe shelter and something to eat. They may also need more long-term care — physically, emotionally, economically or spiritually.

A quick, efficient and well-executed emergency response can effectively address immediate needs. But an effective emergency response doesn’t just deal with the immediate effects of the emergency itself. It also deals with the evaluation and containment of indirect effects like political and civil unrest, which can affect long-term disaster relief and recovery efforts.

What Is the Disaster Management Cycle?

The Disaster Management Cycle refers to the organization and management of resources before, during and after a disaster. There are four phases to the process and act of disaster management: preparation, response, recovery and mitigation (the process of making an issue less severe).

Disaster Preparation

Disaster preparation refers to the measures taken to prepare for and reduce the devastating effects of a disaster. This might entail predicting when and where a disaster might take place, and whenever possible, preventing the disaster.

When preventing a disaster is not possible, disaster preparation also includes the planning, organizing, training and equipping of local communities to have the resources and knowledge necessary to combat the effects of the disaster when and if it takes place.

Disaster Management Cycle
Disaster Response

Disaster response refers to the actions taken directly after a destructive event occurs. This may include, but is not limited to:

  • Search and rescue efforts.
  • Emergency health care and injury assessment.
  • Food and water management.
  • Shelter assignment for displaced individuals and families.
Disaster Recovery

Disaster recovery refers to the continued response efforts taken once the initial disaster has stabilized, bringing the affected community back to its normal processes. Depending on the scale and type of disaster, recovery efforts may include any of the following:

  • Local household and business repairs.
  • Energy and water system restoration.
  • Hazard removal from unsafe streets, pathways and public areas like broken glass, masonry, etc.
Disaster Mitigation

Disaster mitigation refers to the process of making an issue less severe. This process helps eliminate or reduce the impacts and risks of hazards that will cause continued concern for the affected community. These activities also prepare the community for a less severe impact the next time a disaster hits.

Mitigation generally includes community planning and zoning activities like:

  • Political and social impact reform.
  • Building code enforcements.
  • Stormwater management system evaluation and repairs.

How Does Compassion Prepare and Respond to Disaster?

Compassion International is not a disaster relief organization. We are a holistic child development organization that works primarily through child sponsorship. But we understand that the poor and young are more vulnerable in times of crisis and disaster. They are the most heavily and frequently affected.

When Compassion equips and empowers the local church through training activities and monetary contributions, the church is able to quickly respond to the needs of their communities. Compassion children and their families can then recover from shocks and crises in stable, caring environments.

Compassion is not the hero after a disaster occurs — the local church is. Compassion’s goal is to support its church partners so the churches can do the best work for their communities. This means when the short-term disaster recovery is complete, the church goes back to being a church, helping care holistically for the needs of their people and community.

What Is Compassion’s Response in the Disaster Management Cycle?

Compassion works to address every phase of the disaster management cycle. We encourage every church partner to have their own disaster response plan that includes identifying mitigation, prevention and preparedness steps they should take before a disaster hits.

The most important part of Disaster Management Cycle is prevention and preparation.

Compassion addresses prevention through efforts to build resilience in families and communities years before emergencies arise. The interventions and support provided through Compassion’s program focus on:

When a disaster does strike, individual families and the local community are better positioned to respond.

When a disaster does strike, local staff at Compassion church partners alert their national offices. Designated church members trained as first responders deliver stocked supplies like food, water, temporary shelter and medical/health needs for the local community* and children in our program.

*In very recent years, Compassion has expanded to reach the broader needs of the community as a whole.

Once the event has stabilized, recovery activities include local household repairs, job restoration and continued physical, mental and spiritual health support.

Environmental mitigation and risk reduction activities are determined by the local church and National Office of the affected country. They may include design considerations for infrastructure (building and home construction) as well as environmental mitigation needs (retaining walls, planting trees).

Haiti Earthquake

In the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake in 2010, Compassion staff in the United States and in Haiti sprung to action, addressing every phase of the disaster management cycle. Compassion supporters donated more than $30 million to help rebuild and support the families and children affected.

Immediate needs varied from food, temporary shelters, trauma counseling and medical care, to rebuilding church buildings and income-generation projects within the community. Long-term recovery and mitigation also were provided in the form of activities like:

  • Post-trauma counseling training for local pastors.
  • School fee assistance, prosthesis and physical therapy for highly vulnerable children.
  • Income-generation training for parents and caregivers of Compassion children.
  • Church building reconstruction by qualified engineers.

By working with and responding to the needs in an affected community through all phases of the Disaster Management Cycle, Compassion helps keeps children and families connected to the local church, where they can continue to receive the physical, emotional and spiritual support necessary to thrive.

Consider supporting the local church in their efforts to recover after a disaster by donating to the Disaster Relief Fund. Your donation will help a child recover holistically after a devastating event.

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Have Questions About Compassion and How We Work?

Donating to a charity is an important decision. So when you’re passionate about a cause and want to make a difference, we encourage you to do your research. Compassion is 100% committed to financial integrity, stewardship and using each dollar wisely. If you have any questions about Compassion or exactly how your donation will be used, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


Please call us at 800-336-7676, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. MT, to speak with a Compassion representative.