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Improving the U.S. Government's Humanitarian Response

  • Anita Menghetti and Jeff Drumtra


The Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) was created in 1964 to provide emergency nonfood humanitarian assistance in response to international crises and disasters, in order to save lives and alleviate human suffering and to reduce the economic impact of those disasters. The office operates under the overall mandate of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which is to provide “economic, development and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States.”1 OFDA coordinates relief efforts for the U.S. government, and funds relief efforts by UN humanitarian agencies, private nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and other international organizations.



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1 See USAID, “Frequently Asked Questions”; available at .

2 OFDA's lead responsibility within the U.S. government for responding to needs of internally displaced persons abroad is cited in the Foreign Affairs Manual, 2 FAM-0, Foreign Disaster Emergency Relief, 2 FAM 066.3 Department of State (TL: GEN-270; April 1, 1991). The Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration also funds humanitarian assistance for internally displaced persons through the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

3 U.S. Agency for Development, International, Foreign Aid in the National Interest: Promoting Freedom, Security, and Opportunity (Washington, D.C.: USAID, 2002), p. 26.

4 Mitigation or preparedness funds may be expended in a region or country without a disaster declaration.

5 Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, “Guidelines for Proposals and Reporting,” pp. 11, 12, 64, and 65; available at

6 For a solid overview of the initiative, see Macrae, Joanna and Harmer, Adele, “Good Humanitarian Donorship: A Mouse or a Lion?Humanitarian Exchange 24, July 2003, p. 10.

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Improving the U.S. Government's Humanitarian Response

  • Anita Menghetti and Jeff Drumtra


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