Subject Background

Disaster Response: USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA)

USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance responds to all types of natural disasters, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, cyclones, floods, droughts, fires, pest infestations, and disease outbreaks. USAID/OFDA also provides assistance when lives or livelihoods are threatened by catastrophes such as civil conflict, acts of terrorism, or industrial accidents. In addition to emergency assistance, USAID/OFDA funds mitigation activities to reduce the impact of recurrent natural hazards and provides training to build local capacity for disaster management and response.

  • Last year alone (2010), USAID/OFDA responded to 73 disasters affecting millions of people worldwide, providing approximately $974 million for the purchase and distribution of emergency relief supplies and to support disaster relief and mitigation activities.
  • Total budget for 2007: $573.4 million.
  • Categories of disasters: flood, “complex emergency,” hurricane/cyclone/typhoon, wildfire, earthquake, drought, food insecurity, health emergency, storm, tsunami, urban fire.

How USAID/OFDA responds when they receive a formal request of assistance from the affected country:

  1. Deployment of an assessment team or a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) if needed
  2. Activation of an on-call Response Management Team (RMT) in Washington, D.C.
  3. Procurement, transportation and distribution of emergency relief supplies, such as plastic sheeting, water containers, purification systems, blankets, health supplies from one of three regional warehouses.
  4. Provision of funding for flash appeals and proposals from implementing partners, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), U.N. agencies or international organizations.
  5. Prep-positioning of personal and relief supplies in the event of an impending disaster, such as hurricane or volcano eruption.
  6. Support for various relief and rehab activities through grants to implementing organizations.

USAID/OFDA regional advisors are based in Costa Rica, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, Thailand and Nepal – strategically located in the most disaster-prone areas of the world. There is additional field staff in countries where humanitarian needs require vigilant monitoring – such as Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.