Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance

OFDA's unique disaster response capabilities help those suffering in the midst of the worst crises around the world.
OFDA's unique disaster response capabilities help those suffering in the midst of the worst crises around the world.
Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chris Lussie, U.S. Navy

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 65 disasters in more than 50 countries every year to ensure aid reaches people affected by rapid-onset 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.

Our Work

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.

Emergency Response

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. 

In 2016, conflict in South Sudan, Iraq, Yemen, and Ukraine left tens of millions in need of assistance while Syria entered the sixth year of a brutal civil war that has destroyed entire communities and affected far too many lives.

At the same time, OFDA took action amid one of the worst droughts Ethiopia has seen in 50 years. In partnership with the Government of Ethiopia, OFDA deployed a DART to respond decisively to meet the immediate needs of those most impacted by the drought, and has continued to provide critical aid.

On April 25, 2015, when a powerful and deadly earthquake shook Nepal, killing nearly 9,000 people, OFDA deployed a DART that worked around the clock to provide medical care and perform urban search-and-rescue operations.

In FY 2016, OFDA had (DARTs) responding to five major crises (Syria, South Sudan, Iraq, West Africa Ebola outbreak, and Ethiopia drought) and stood up just as many Response Management Teams (RMTs). In addition, we responded to an earthquake in Ecuador, drought in Southern Africa, and complex emergencies in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Lake Chad Basin, Yemen, and more.

Just as we have in these countries, USAID remains committed to responding to crises around the world, to help the people and places most in need.

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. 

Early Recovery

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 ofdainquiries@ofda.gov.

For specific questions about OFDA's programs, view the USAID/OFDA Regional Contact list.

For media inquiries about USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, please email USAIDPressOfficers@usaid.gov.

Last updated: July 18, 2017

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