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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
Aid worker in front of a field hospital tent
© 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 outside the EU.

The Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) of the European Commission manages 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) ensure close cooperation between the ERCC and geographical experts.
  • 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 come 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.
    • 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) was set up by 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. The EU provides an annual allocation to the DREF and can contribute with a maximum of €200,000 per action.

How are we helping?

In 2023, the EU allocated €43,6 million through the Emergency Toolbox.

  • The ALERT instrument was activated for 14 disasters in 2023, for example:
    • for the consequences of tropical cyclones in Mozambique, Madagascar, Myanmar
    • floods in the Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya
    • earthquakes in Türkiye, Syria, Morocco
  • The Small-scale tool was used on 17 occasions in 2023, including for:
    • population movement/internally displaced persons/refugees in Chad, Armenia, Mauritania
    • floods in Peru, Haiti, Bangladesh, Libya
    • malnutrition in Nigeria, Brazil
  • The Epidemics tool was used on various occasions in 2023, including:
    • Cholera in Malawi, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Sudan, South Sudan
    • Mpox in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
    • Diphtheria in Nigeria
  • The European Commission channelled funding to the DREF instrument 65 times in 50 countries in 2023. The national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies were, thus supported in their rapid response to emergencies around the world related mainly to floods, tropical cyclones, drought, population movement, civil unrest, and cholera.

Facts & figures

2024 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 2023, we provided funding to:

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