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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
© European Union, 2017 (photographer: KM Asad)
Emergency Toolbox

EU funding for sudden-onset humanitarian crises


The Emergency Toolbox is one of the instruments the European Commission uses to assist in unforeseen, sudden-onset crises.

The Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) of the European Commission administers the various funding tools within this toolbox.

Why is it important?

The Emergency Toolbox is specifically dedicated to emergency response for vulnerable people outside the EU. It has 3 main characteristics:

  • It aims to (i) rapidly respond to emergencies through short deadlines to decide on allocations, (ii) close cooperation between the ERCC and humanitarian experts, and (iii) simplified procedure for humanitarian organisations to submit project proposals.
  • It is designed to provide first-line funding in the immediate aftermath of a crisis.
    • The maximum duration of an action is limited to either 6 or 12 months.
    • After the swift allocation of the Emergency Toolbox’s initial funding, the EU can decide to provide additional support through other funding instruments.
  • It aims to respond to emergencies that came unexpectedly or could not be anticipated.
    • The Toolbox is separate from – and complementary to – other humanitarian funds which are allocated annually, through humanitarian implementation plans, to specific geographical areas and managed by humanitarian experts.
    • The Emergency Toolbox reduces the need for country humanitarian implementation plans to respond in an ad-hoc way to unexpected needs. It allows them to respond to strategically planned goals.

What are the 4 tools within the Toolbox?

  • The Acute Large Emergency Response Tool (ALERT) responds to large-scale natural hazards and technological disasters where over 100,000 people or over 50% of the population are affected. Depending on the type of disaster, the aim is to allocate funds within 24-48 hours of an emergency’s onset, emphasising on the swiftness of the decision-making process.
  • The Small-scale Tool is used to assist a limited number of people (below 100,000) affected by a natural or human-induced disaster. The maximum allocation per action is €500,000.
  • The Epidemics Tool is used to respond to and prevent epidemic outbreaks.
  • The Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF) belongs to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). It supports national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. We contribute to this fund to a maximum of €200,000 per action.

How are we helping?

In 2022, the EU allocated €40 million through the Emergency Toolbox.

  • The ALERT instrument was activated for 14 disasters in 2022:
    • for the consequences of tropical cyclones in Cuba, Mozambique, Madagascar, and the Philippines
    • floods in the Lake Chad region, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and Brazil
    • earthquakes in Afghanistan and the Philippines.

Between €500,000 and €6.8 million were allocated to respond to each of these disasters.

  • The Small-scale tool was used on 11 occasions in 2022, including for:
    • population movement/internally displaced persons/refugees in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Armenia, Belarus, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burkina Faso and Chad
    • floods in Pakistan and South Africa and Tropical cyclone in Malawi
    • malnutrition in Nigeria
  • The Epidemics tool was used on various occasions in 2022, including:
    • Cholera in Malawi, Nigeria, Lebanon, Haiti, Syria and DRC
    • Mpox in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
    • Ebola in Uganda
    • COVID-19 in Syria and the Philippines.
  • The European Commission channelled funding to the DREF instrument 68 times in 57 countries in 2022. The national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies were, thus, supported in their rapid response to emergencies related mainly to floods, tropical cyclones, drought, volcanos, population movement, civil unrest, and cholera and Ebola outbreaks.

Facts & figures

2023 initial budget: €29.5 million

4 tools:

  • Acute Large Emergency Response Tool (ALERT)
  • Small-scale Tool
  • Epidemics Tool
  • Support to IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF)

In 2022, we provided funding to:

  • Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
  • International NGOs
  • UN agencies