A: CARE’s focus on the needs and rights of women and girls gives us a unique lens that we apply in emergency situations. For example, often during an emergency, women can be separated from their partners for long periods while men are away working — tending to livestock, for example, trading or collecting natural resources. This places women at the head of the households, giving them greater responsibility than traditional and communal roles often allow. CARE’s programming addresses the particular needs of women in such circumstances, and focuses not only on ensuring provision of emergency assistance but also on equipping women with the tools they need to be strong community leaders long after the disaster phase. CARE also aims to give women a stronger voice to address gender-specific issues — girls being kept home to do chores rather than going to school or childhood and forced

marriage — than their traditional roles have allowed. This gives women the stature and capacity to exercise their voice and builds community acceptance through emergency programming that bridges gaps between women and men.

Q: What are the biggest obstacles toward building stability through humanitarian aid work?

A: Building stable communities requires concerted investment over years through coordinated humanitarian and development programming. However, in today’s context, we see new conflicts arising while countless prolonged conflicts continue to burn without political solutions. That has created growing humanitarian needs, record levels of displacement and unprecedented food insecurity. When needs for basic, lifesaving assistance remain at levels beyond what the international community can

Presevo refugee camp woman

A woman smiles from within the Presevo refugee camp on the Serbian side of the Macedonia border. CARE works with refugees around the world to meet their immediate needs through tools such as grocery debit cards, even as they prepare for the long term. Toby Madden/CARE

deliver, humanitarian assistance must continue to focus on meeting the most immediate needs. Humanitarian organizations and donor governments are struggling to balance the most urgent responses with the responses that will build resilience to allow communities to manage stresses without resorting to negative coping strategies. At CARE, we have successfully done development programming in fragile environments — for example, strengthening local water infrastructure so local populations can better access water. When droughts occur, these efforts have built in some measure of resilience to help shield families from the most immediate of shocks, while also allowing the community to support the urgent needs of displaced people that have come from the highlands into villages.

This is the type of programming we must continue to invest in, programs that build local capacity to respond and create resilient communities. For these efforts to be scaled up, CARE must work with donor governments to break down the silos that independently govern humanitarian assistance and development assistance to a more coordinated strategy that builds stability through all types of assistance.