Humanitarian Aid

Humans Helping Humans

Nov. 25, 2018

All around the world, after disasters or during longer-term crises like droughts, lots of organizations step up to offer humanitarian assistance. This kind of aid is meant to save lives, ease suffering and help people feel human again, and to enable the affected country to prepare for the next time disaster strikes.

Why would the Defense Department be involved?

Soldiers hold a woman on a stretcher outside an ambulance.
Ambulance Assist
Members of the Army's 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital load a Pakistani woman into a ambulance after she was treated for a shattered pelvis at Muzaffarabad, Pakistan, Nov. 12, 2005. The Defense Department supported the State Department by providing disaster relief supplies and services following a massive earthquake that struck Pakistan and parts of India and Afghanistan.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Quinton Russ
VIRIN: 051112-F-JF472-004Y
U.S. Marine and Guatemalen engineer lay blocks at a construction site.
Escuintla Construction
Marine Corps Cpl. Randy O'Connell, left, and a member of the Guatemalan army corps of engineers work together to lay blocks at a construction site in Escuintla, Guatemala, July 19, 2018. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Southern Command worked with the Guatemalan military as part of a U.S. Southern Command humanitarian assistance project coordinated with the government of Guatemala to build temporary housing for people left without homes after a volcano eruption.
Photo By: Gunnery Sgt. Zachary Dyer
VIRIN: 180719-M-VM748-071A

Well, because the U.S. military can take itself and the supplies it needs pretty much anywhere on Earth. This ability is incredibly important in war, but it also means that DOD has the manpower, equipment and organizational assets to respond to international emergencies.

In a very broad sense, DOD’s humanitarian assistance program is divided into two parts — response and preparation.

During the response phase after a disaster has happened, DOD uses its personnel and equipment to deliver medical supplies, food and supplies for other basic needs.

Before disasters, DOD personnel are in countries all over the world to work with civil authorities such as local and state officials and first responders to prepare them to respond to future crises.

First responders in orange vests and camo pants gahter outside a building, as several of them maneuver on second-floor structures.
Quake Response Training
Nepali first responders train in Kathmandu, Nepal, to respond to an earthquake, Sept. 27, 2018.
Photo By: Elizabeth Blanchard, USAID
VIRIN: 180927-O-ZZ999-043

One example of this kind of preparation happened recently in Nepal. U.S. and Nepalese soldiers teamed up in Kathmandu to learn from each other as they trained to respond to the earthquakes so common in the region. Learn more about this training here.