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Disasters and Emergencies

How we respond in an emergency

When a disaster happens, we’re there to support children and their families by:

  • meeting their immediate survival needs, providing essentials including water, food, shelter and healthcare
  • creating safe spaces for children to recover
  • ensuring girls and boys are still able to access education
  • providing girls and women with dignity kits so they can manage their periods, even in the toughest conditions
  • supporting the long-term recovery of communities.

We also work with at-risk communities before a disaster happens, enabling them to better prepare for and prevent future disasters, and minimise damage and loss of life.

Our programmes have been funded by the UK Government (DFID)the European Union (ECHO), the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), the START Network, UN agencies, players of the People’s Postcode Lottery and the ongoing generosity of our supporters.

Children's Emergency Fund

Protecting children in emergencies

Protecting children and young people is at the heart of what we do. During an emergency, children are at even greater risk of harm, trauma and exploitation. That’s why we prioritise creating safe spaces where they can access education and the emotional support they need in the aftermath of a disaster.

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Creating child-friendly spaces

Our child-friendly spaces offer a place of safety for children whose lives have been turned upside down, giving them the chance to heal, recover and restart their education. These are spaces where they can learn, play and draw, and enjoy their childhood again.

Join best friends Akim and Lim as they show you around their child-friendly space in the refugee camps in Ethiopia.   

A Child Protection in Emergencies officer talks to a child forced to leave home by conflict
A Plan International Ethiopia Child Protection in Emergencies officer talks to a child forced to leave home by conflict

Keeping children safe during Coronavirus

In Ethiopia, drought and conflict have forced huge populations to leave their homes in search of safety. 100,000 people have sought refuge in the Beneshangul Gumuz region. Here, in temporary camps, there are few systems to protect children. Coronavirus has taken away livelihoods and diminished finances. Abuse of all kinds, including child labour, early marriage, FGM and sexual abuse, has increased. Our project is helping to keep the most at-risk children in Beneshangul Gumuz safe. We’re training and supporting government services, running Positive Parenting campaigns, training youth groups as advocates and teaching children confidence and coping through life skills. With our help, the most vulnerable children will stay safe and thrive.

Reaching girls in crisis

If you’re a girl affected by conflict or disaster, your life chances are likely to be among the worst in the world. Girls in conflict settings are more likely to be married before the age of 18 than to finish school, and are at greater risk of exploitation and early pregnancy.

Mary in South Sudan
© Kate Holt/Plan International

Education in emergencies

When disaster strikes, the prospect of finishing secondary school can become a distant dream for young people – especially girls. Our research shows that 13 million girls are completely out of school as a result of humanitarian crisis. But for girls, education is a lifeline. It offers a safe space to learn, access information about their rights and receive much-needed psychosocial support.

In South Sudan, our support means girls like 15-year-old Mary can continue her education. “When my father was given seeds and tools by Plan International – this is when I went to school,” she says.

A girl wears a mask and face shield in a classroom
“I’m happy to be back at school. Thanks to Plan International, I have a face mask and face shield. I’m not worried anymore as I feel protected.” – Angelina, 13, Indonesia

Supporting girls getting back to school

Coronavirus has left us facing the biggest education emergency in living memory. At the peak of the first lockdown in 2020, over 743 million girls were out of school in 184 countries. It’s estimated that 20 million girls in the world’s poorest countries may never return to the classroom.

As well as delivering essential education supplies, we’ve been supporting girls to keep learning remotely. We’re also helping communities prepare for a safe return to school: distributing face masks, providing handwashing kits and ensuring schools have adequate water and sanitation facilities. 


Girls’ periods don’t stop after an emergency, but a few essential items can transform how a girl manages her period in the most challenging circumstances. That’s why, in the wake of a disaster, we distribute thousands of dignity kits, tailored to the community we’re reaching.

An infographic showing the contents of a dignity kit
In Bangladesh, items in a dignity kit include: 1 A maxi (long dress) 2 Cloth napkin strips 3 A bucket 4 Laundry soap 5 Underwear 6 A torch 7 Slippers 8 Orna (a type of shawl) 9 Thami (a type of sarong)
Anabela and her mum Elizete lost their home during Cyclone Idai

Essential supplies for girls

As well as distributing dignity kits, we also provide families with soap, buckets and water purification tablets, to reduce the risk of waterborne diseases and to ensure girls and women aren’t forced to travel long distances to collect water.

In Mozambique, these supplies are essential for girls like Anabela and her mum Elizete, who were forced to take shelter in a school after they lost their home during Cyclone Idai. 

“We lost all we had in the water,” says Elizete. “I am scared of our next period because we won’t have enough material and water to use.”

Cash in emergencies

In the wake of an emergency, or when communities are facing long-term displacement or drought, Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) can enable affected families to meet their myriad needs through local markets. Financial support, provided by a cash transfer or vouchers, enables people to buy what they need the most – whether that’s shelter, food or school equipment and fees.

In Palu, Indonesia, we worked with a local bank to open accounts for people affected by the tsunami.

Families leading their own recovery

Cash and vouchers give families the means, flexibility and choice to lead their own recovery – and their children benefit too. Financial support for their family means they may not have to take part in child labour, enabling them to go back to school and protecting them from child marriage, exploitation, food insecurity and malnutrition.

In Palu, Indonesia, Plan International worked with a local bank to open accounts for people affected by the 2018 tsunami. The bank also provided mobile ATMs in rural locations, enabling people to withdraw their money close to home.

Preparing Communities for Future Disasters

Over the next decade, the number of children affected by disasters and emergencies is expected to triple, due to climate change, environmental degradation, poverty and population growth. This makes it essential for communities in hazard-prone areas to become better prepared for disasters. 

A girl learns to abseil at survival camp in Thailand

Learning lifesaving survival skills

We work to strengthen the resilience of at-risk communities, enabling them to better provide for the safety and wellbeing of their children. We promote an innovative child-centred approach to disaster risk reduction, that harnesses the energy and ideas of children and young people to work towards making lives safer and communities more resilient to disasters.

In Thailand, children at our survival camps learn a range of lifesaving skills, including first aid, evacuation methods, abseiling to escape from buildings and earthquake response. They’re also shown how to map their schools for potential risks and hazards.

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Working in partnership

DEC logo


Plan International UK is a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee, an umbrella organisation that brings together UK aid agencies to tackle major humanitarian emergencies. 

The DEC unites the efforts of its member agencies (14 UK-registered charities) during major disasters by directing the public to a joint fundraising appeal. It aims to save lives by maximising money raised and ensuring funds are spent in the most effective and transparent way possible. We joined the DEC in 2011, becoming the first agency to join the umbrella organisation. Our membership reflects our long-term strategic commitment to both disaster response and disaster risk reduction.

UK Aid logo

UK Aid

The Department for International Development (DFID) is the branch of the UK Government responsible for delivering overseas aid. DFID supports a number of our resilience programmes and emergency responses.

European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department


Our disaster risk-reduction and response programmes in Asia, Africa and the Americas, is supported by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Office (ECHO). 

Plan International UK is a member of the Start Network

Start Network

Plan International UK is a member of Start Network - 42 national and international aid agencies/NGOs are leading for change in humanitarian aid. The network aims to create a new humanitarian economy -  a system that reduces the power of centralised institutions and bureaucrats and gives more control to those on the front line of every crisis – and to this end it operates a number of innovative aid programmes.

Children's Emergency Fund

Help us reach children and their families when they need us most