New Zealand's humanitarian aid helps to save lives and relieve suffering caused by natural disasters and armed conflict.

We focus our disaster management efforts in the Pacific and South East Asia regions. Countries in the Asia-Pacific region are among the most vulnerable in the world to natural disasters.

Our response systems are designed to be quick and effective and to deliver practical assistance to those most in need.

We also recognise the value of investing in measures that reduce the risks of disasters and helping countries be better prepared for disasters.

Where we focus our humanitarian aid 

Pacific

Samoa tsunami signage
Tsunami safe route signage, Samoa

The Pacific is the core focus of our humanitarian and disaster management efforts. Pacific countries are our closest partners and New Zealand shares close cultural, political and social links with the Pacific. This means we are a trusted partner that can respond quickly in support of Pacific governments when a disaster strikes.

Pacific island countries are among the most vulnerable in the world. They are particularly susceptible to cyclones, floods, droughts, volcanic activity, earthquakes and tsunami. The impacts of climate change and unpredictable weather patterns are exacerbating disaster risk. Small island developing states in the Pacific also face disproportionally high risks to extensive loss and damage due to their small and vulnerable economies. The impact of multiple disaster events can have devastating consequences on the lives of people and their communities, as well as on entire economies for many years.

The Pacific is most vulnerable to natural events during the months of November to May (the Pacific cyclone season). 

South East Asia

Much of South East Asia is also considered to be extremely vulnerable to natural disasters including storms (typhoons), landslides, earthquakes and tsunami. The Philippines is considered to be the most cyclone-affected country in the world. In this region New Zealand joins other international humanitarian responders to support affected country governments. An example of this was New Zealand’s practical assistance during typhoon Haiyan in late 2013 – considered the biggest storm recorded in history.

Global

Ebola treatement centre, Sierra Leone
Ebola Treatment Centre, Sierra Leone, 2014. UN Photo / Evan Schneider

Our humanitarian aid to the rest of the world focuses on supporting the coordinated efforts of other international humanitarian responders including other donors, the United Nations, the International Red Cross Movement and international non-government organisations. The world is facing an unprecedented number of severe and protracted humanitarian emergencies, many caused by conflict. These include Syria, Central African Republic, Iraq and South Sudan. New Zealand has contributed to humanitarian assistance in all of these emergencies and will continue to play our part in the world’s most significant humanitarian crises.

How we respond to disasters

Response to Cyclone Haiyan in the PhilippinesThe New Zealand Defence Force helping to evacuate people affected by Typhoon Haiyan, Philippines 2013

New Zealand has excellent capabilities and extensive experience in responding to disasters, building on our own domestic expertise.

New Zealand’s response to a disaster offshore depends on the identified needs at the time and the requests from the affected country government. New Zealand adopts a partnership approach to managing disasters. This includes a ‘whole of Government’ commitment and working closely with the private sector, non-government organisations, the United Nations and other donors.

New Zealand’s assistance can include any or all of the following:

  • Providing essential relief supplies such as tarpaulins, water bottles and household kits
  • Deploying medical assistance through specially trained and experienced health specialists from New Zealand in partnership with the Ministry of Health
  • Deploying Urban Search and Rescue or other technical assistance in partnership with the New Zealand Fire Service
  • Deploying experienced Emergency Management personnel to support affected country governments in partnership with the New Zealand Ministry for Civil Defence & Emergency Management
  • Supporting affected country Governments with logistical and other technical capabilities in partnership with the New Zealand Defence Force
  • Providing technical expertise from New Zealand to help re-establish essential infrastructure such as telecommunications, airports and power services for example – often in partnership with the private sector
  • Providing financial assistance to the affected Government where appropriate
  • Providing financial assistance to NGOs or other local or international responders who are delivering practical assistance to affected communities.

Our partners

To put our humanitarian aid into action, we work with a range of partners. These include other governments, other government agencies, NGOs, the United Nations and private businesses.

Other governments

We work closely with other donor partners to ensure that the New Zealand Government’s assistance supports, and does not duplicate the assistance provided by others. In the Pacific, we have a particularly close partnership with Australia and France. The three partners work closely together to ensure we can use our respective assets and capabilities to the greatest and most useful effect.

Read more about the FRANZ partnership [PDF, 1.1 MB].

New Zealand government agencies

Through our ‘whole of government’ approach to disaster response in the Pacific, we work with other New Zealand Government agencies such as Ministry of Health, New Zealand Defence Force, New Zealand Police, MCDEM and New Zealand Fire to deploy their capabilities in a disaster response.

New Zealand non-government organisations

New Zealand NGOs are key partners in response and early recovery initiatives in the Pacific. They often have excellent networks and partnerships in affected communities and can provide rapid assistance after a disaster, but also help communities to recover. We have partnerships with 14 New Zealand-based NGOs who have partners in the Pacific and who have strong capabilities to provide relief and early recovery assistance.

Read more about the New Zealand humanitarian NGOs we work (external link)

Find out more about the NZ Disaster Response Partnerships Fund

Red Cross

The Red Cross is the largest humanitarian network in the world, working in 189 countries through over 13 million volunteers. We partner with the New Zealand Red Cross to respond to disasters in various ways including the deployment of essential relief supplies (such as tarpaulins and blankets) and technical assistance (such as shelter, water and sanitation experts).

Read more about the New Zealand Red Cross’s disaster response work (external link)

United Nations

New Zealand works with the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), which is responsible for bringing together humanitarian actors to ensure a coherent response to emergencies such as earthquakes, typhoons or conflict, and to assist affected people when they most need relief or protection. OCHA plays a key role in assessing situations and needs, monitoring progress, and mobilising funds and other resources. OCHA’s head office for the Pacific is in Suva, Fiji.

Read more about UNOCHA (external link)

Private sector

The private sector has a key role to play in the response to a disaster and in the recovery phase after a disaster. They are providers of essential goods and services and New Zealand is committed to working closely with private businesses in its response and recovery efforts. 

How we help to reduce risks and prepare for disasters

While we are ready to respond to disasters when they occur, we recognise that investing in measures to reduce risks and to be better prepared for disasters can significantly reduce the losses that countries face.

We factor in disaster risks as part of our development investments. For example, when we invest in the construction of buildings or other infrastructure, we carefully consider the location, structure and strength of the infrastructure to withstand adverse weather events. 

Tonga emergency simulation exercise An emergency simulation exercise in Tonga. Photo: ADRA

Other examples of what we do to support partners to reduce risks and become better prepared for disasters are: 

  • supporting five atoll countries in the Pacific (Niue, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Republic of the Marshall islands) to be better prepared for droughts, in partnership with the Secretariat for the Pacific Community (SPC)
  • building and upgrading evacuation centres that can provide safe spaces for people in a disaster in Fiji in partnership with the Fiji Government
  • improving the capacity for volcano monitoring in Vanuatu in partnership with the Vanuatu Government and New Zealand Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS)
  • upskilling local government authorities in Indonesia on disaster planning and management, in partnership with the Indonesia Government and GNS
  • working with partner governments in South East Asia to construct and upgrade warehouses and improve logistics capacity that will enable them to store and release essential relief supplies during a disaster
  • supporting five Pacific countries (Niue, Tokelau, Samoa, Tonga and Cook islands) to build the capacity of their national disaster management offices and their emergency coordination centres to manage a disaster, in partnership with the New Zealand Ministry for Civil Defence & Emergency Management
  • providing training to the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance (AHA Centre), in partnership with Canterbury University
  • supporting Pacific island countries to access information about risks and hazards which helps to inform their planning, in partnership with New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).