Mercy Corps to Aid Organizations: Think Beyond the Household to Help Communities Recover from Disaster

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New Mercy Corps research highlights underappreciated benefits of supporting local economies

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If we can strengthen traders’ and banks' ability to serve cattle farmers who have lost valuable assets after a natural disaster, we can help a greater number of farmers for months and years to come

After a flood or an earthquake, humanitarian responders focus first on meeting urgent and basic needs of families affected by disaster in order to save lives and provide immediate relief. But a new report from Mercy Corps shows some of the greatest impact in disaster recovery may come months and years later through support to local markets and financial institutions that these populations rely on most to cope and recover. The study was funded by JPMorgan Chase and implemented in collaboration with the SEEP network, a nonprofit that supports economic opportunities for vulnerable populations.

“If we can – for example – strengthen traders’ and banks' ability to serve cattle farmers who have lost valuable assets after a natural disaster, we can help a greater number of farmers for months and years to come,” says Alison Hemberger, Senior Advisor for Market Systems Development at Mercy Corps. “These kinds of interventions have incredibly powerful ripple effects that last beyond the delivery of direct aid.”

The report highlights a number of case studies. In one, an aid group recognized the crippling damage the dairy market sustained following the 2015 earthquake in Nepal. In the weeks after the earthquake, the group conducted a market analysis to identify road closures, livestock damage, closed collection facilities and staffing issues. Humanitarian organizations and the local government used these metrics to return the dairy supply chain – one of the country’s most important industries – to its full capacity.

“This work shows that the benefit of building on existing economic and social systems that are already in place is often overlooked,” says Hemberger. She stresses that by strengthening the businesses and market institutions that support economic opportunities for vulnerable groups, aid agencies can provide the strongest springboard for recovery.

“Building financial health and entrepreneurship not only improves stability for families that experience natural disaster, but also supports community resilience and recovery,” says Janis Bowdler, Head of Community Development for Global Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase. “In light of the natural disasters that have affected the U.S. and other countries in the past several months, findings from this research can be invaluable to organizations that are leading recovery efforts in any part of the world.”

Read the full report here. Join us and support Mercy Corps’ work around the world.

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Katia Riddle
Mercy Corps
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Lynn Hector
Mercy Corps
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