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The Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) is responsible for leading and coordinating the U.S. Government’s response to disasters overseas.
OFDA responds to an average of 70 disasters in 56 countries every year to ensure aid reaches people affected by rapid on-set disasters—such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and floods—and slow-onset crises, including drought and conflict. OFDA fulfills its mandate of saving lives, alleviating human suffering, and reducing the social and economic impact of disasters worldwide in partnership with USAID functional and regional bureaus and other U.S. Government agencies.
OFDA experts worldwide and in D.C. help countries prepare for, respond to, and recover from humanitarian crises. OFDA works with the international humanitarian community to give vulnerable populations resources to build resilience and strengthen their own ability to respond to emergencies.
When disaster strikes, OFDA sends regional and technical experts to the affected country to identify and prioritize humanitarian needs. In the wake of a large-scale disaster, OFDA can deploy a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to coordinate and manage an optimal U.S. Government response, while working closely with local officials, the international community, and relief agencies. OFDA also maintains stocks of emergency relief supplies in warehouses worldwide and has the logistical and operational capabilities to deliver them quickly.
Major world events drove OFDA’s actions in FY 2012. In Syria, where more than one million people fled their homes because of escalating violence, OFDA and others in the U.S. Government are responding to growing humanitarian needs in the country and throughout the region. While conditions in the Horn of Africa have improved since 2011 when the worst drought in more than 60 years—combined with ongoing conflict in Somalia—devastated the region, millions still require assistance. As of September 2012, OFDA provided life-saving health assistance to more than 2 million people and increased access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities for more than 1.7 million people. In the West African Sahel, below-average rainfall and resulting crop losses left people without sufficient food or income. OFDA provided seeds, tools, and agricultural training to more than 660,000 farmers, and prevented and treated malnutrition in nearly790,000 women and children. Throughout Asia and Latin America, OFDA responded to flooding in 15 countries, including Thailand, India, the Philippines, Guatemala, and Paraguay, providing shelter and critical relief supplies to families who lost everything.
Disaster Risk Reduction
Globally, where unplanned urbanization and population growth have placed more people in harm’s way, programs that help communities reduce risks, lessen the impact of disasters, and build resilience are critical. OFDA’s approach to disaster risk reduction recognizes the central role of national and local entities as disaster managers and seeks to strengthen their ability to respond, emphasizing community-based initiatives. OFDA helps establish early warning networks, train schoolchildren on what to do when an earthquake strikes, and teach local emergency personnel how to conduct search-and-rescue. These activities not only reduce the number of lives and livelihoods lost during a disaster, they help communities become resilient to future crises. Achieving real resilience requires a range of approaches to help communities develop the capacity to manage an array of recurring shocks. OFDA’s disaster risk reduction programs are specifically intended to limit the impact of these shocks.
Following the deadly 2004 earthquake and tsunami, the people of Indonesia—with financial and technical support from OFDA—developed a tsunami early warning and evacuation system that got people out of harm’s way when a magnitude 8.6 earthquake struck off the island of Sumatra in April 2012. Also, early warning systems and disaster preparedness activities established by OFDA in Mozambique saved lives following severe storms and flooding in January 2012.
Recognizing the need to provide immediate relief while also setting the stage for recovery and rehabilitation, OFDA supports programs that give people tools to restart former jobs, provide psychosocial care to traumatized disaster survivors, and prepare individuals to get back on their feet.
A key component of helping communities transition from the emergency to recovery phase of a disaster is linking OFDA’s work to the development work of the USAID Mission in the affected country. For example, OFDA is collaborating with USAID/Sri Lanka to ensure displaced families have access both to emergency programs that provide employment training and to programs that support the Mission’s long-term economic development strategy. OFDA programs also seek innovative ways to help disaster-affected communities begin to rebuild local economies. In many African nations, OFDA provides mobile cash transfers, allowing people to purchase food or other items to restart small businesses, playing a direct role in helping local businesses and farmers recover. Such programs not only help build resilience, they also protect hard-won economic and development gains.
For general inquiries about the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For specific questions about OFDA's programs, view the USAID/OFDA Regional Contact list.
Last updated: December 18, 2013