Over the past 80 years, the International Rescue Committee has developed unparalleled expertise in responding to emergencies and helping uprooted communities to rebuild. Founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein, the IRC offers lifesaving care and life-changing assistance to refugees forced to flee from war or disaster.
What we do
Where we work
The IRC works in more than 40 countries. With programmes in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean, we work in refugee camps, disaster areas and countries that host refugees. We also work with communities recovering from war or experiencing prolonged crisis or conflict.
When an emergency arises, the IRC can arrive on the scene within 72 hours with urgently needed supplies and expertise that protect people caught in the midst of chaos. We commit to stay as long as we are needed, helping survivors to heal, recover and rebuild their communities to be stronger, more stable and more democratic.
From the first moment the IRC hits the ground we work toward lasting solutions. Building local capacity and self-sufficiency - and promoting human rights, participation and accountability - are at the core of all of our innovative programmes.
When war and conflict break out or disaster strikes, the IRC can respond within 72 hours, providing quick and effective aid that saves lives, reduces suffering, restores dignity and kick-starts recovery. We pre-position equipment and supplies in key transport hubs so that materials can be dispatched anywhere in the world. And we have a rota of experienced staff around the world who can be deployed to an emergency at short notice.
Our experience and expertise in emergencies enables us to work efficiently and effectively to provide displaced people with shelter, protect the vulnerable, treat the sick, prevent the spread of disease and promote human rights.
Find out more about our emergency response work.
When violence or disaster strike, public health services, clean water supplies, sanitation and stable living conditions are destroyed. As a result, deaths and illness increase.
The IRC works to reduce illness, bring death rates back to normal levels and, when crises subside, to rebuild health systems. Some 14.5 million people benefit from our programmes, which address crucial needs including child survival, reproductive health, and water and sanitation.
Find out more about our work on health.
Children and young people
Children and young people suffer disproportionately during crises such as conflict and natural disaster. As highly vulnerable groups, they are often at the mercy of armed groups or dangerous environments; they can be killed, wounded, abducted, exploited, sexually abused or face life-threatening illnesses. During and in the aftermath of crisis, children have to cope with changes to their lives such as disease, losing or being separated from their families, taking on adult roles, losing opportunities to play and learn, and being exposed to abuse and exploitation. Beyond safety and survival, children need access to support, services and opportunities to develop physically, socially, emotionally and intellectually.
From the earliest stages of an emergency, through post-emergency as well as recovery, the IRC works to ensure that children are protected from harm and have the opportunity to develop and thrive. The IRC’s programmes aim to prevent and respond to violence against children — and their abuse, exploitation and neglect; help children access their right to a quality education; and help youth become active contributors to social and economic development.
Find out more about our work with children and young people.
Women and girls
During conflict, rape is used as a weapon of war to demoralise individuals, break families apart, and terrorise and humiliate communities. When families are displaced, women and girls face a growing threat of violence and sexual exploitation – a threat that remains long after an emergency ends.
The IRC ensures that health care services are available for survivors of rape, including the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and transmission of HIV/AIDS, and we work with communities to change the beliefs and attitudes that underlie violence against women. We also give women and girls the skills, self-assurance and opportunity to speak out about the issues that affect their lives, and to strengthen their economic independence. This holistic approach helps them to realise their full potential, free from violence.
Find out more about work protecting and empowering women and girls.
When people are displaced by crisis, they often have to leave everything behind. When they return to their homes, they can find that their means of supporting themselves have been destroyed or stolen.
The IRC provides individuals with the resources and skills they need to rebuild their livelihoods, and we work with local entrepreneurs and businesses that can offer apprenticeships to young people and promote economic growth.
In the past, emergency interventions have sometimes undermined local markets and livelihoods. To address this, the IRC developed the Emergency Market Mapping and Analysis (EMMA) toolkit. EMMA helps agencies to design and implement emergency programmes that respond to people’s immediate needs while helping local economies to recover.
Find out more about economic recovery.
Governance and rights
Many of today’s conflicts are the result of failed states and repressive or dysfunctional regimes. In the wake of conflict and disaster, establishing good governance, a functioning civil society and the rule of law can provide a peaceful means through which disputes can be resolved and development flourish.
The IRC gives democratically elected committees financial resources and support so that they can implement development projects selected by the communities they represent. We ensure that community members know their rights and that they have the skills to resolve disputes fairly and peacefully. And we help civil society groups learn how to effectively engage with government and other institutions on the issues that concern them.
Find out more about our work on governance and rights.
Research, evaluation and learning
The IRC is committed to learning from our experiences and making a real and measurable difference to the lives of the people we work with. In partnership with some of the world’s leading academic institutions, we conduct research and evaluate our key programme areas in the different contexts in which we work – emergency, rehabilitation, post-conflict and recovery.
This means that, as well as our programmes being built on solid evidence of what works, they generate new knowledge so that the help we provide is constantly improving.
Find out more about research, evalution and learning.
Using your donations wisely
The IRC is consistently awarded high marks by charity watchdog groups and respected publications for our efficient use of financial support and the effectiveness of our work. Of every £1 the IRC spends, more than 90p goes to programmes and services that directly benefit refugees and communities affected by war or disaster.
Be a part of our work
Make a gift, attend IRC events, advocate for change, fundraise for the IRC, work with us, alert your online network about how the IRC helps during a headline-grabbing crisis. There are many ways to rescue a life.