Survivors of natural and man-made disasters in both developed and developing countries not only need, expect, or receive relief from outside sources to mitigate impacts of extreme events; they also often become proactive within their communities and beyond in terms of building networks and providing assistance to other survivors. Disaster relief represents a response that demands an immediate action to alleviate suffering of survivors and save lives. The primary objective of this introductory chapter is to provide a description of salient features of disaster relief operations conducted across the globe over the past several decades. After introductory comments, the chapter begins with a brief chronicle of the development of major global humanitarian agencies and assistance programs, along with emergence of humanitarianism and volunteerism, which are closely associated with humanitarian assistance. The next section of this chapter summarizes major criticisms of disaster aid provision and also outlines the need for disbursement of assistance to disaster survivors. This is accomplished in part by providing several definitions of natural disasters wherein the need for emergency relief aid for survivors of extreme natural events is either explicit or embedded. The chapter ends with the book’s objectives and chapter outline.


Natural disasters Complex emergencies Emergency assistance Humanitarian actors Disaster relief operations Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) International agencies and international NGOs Humanitarianism and volunteerism Relief dependency Counterproductive Flow of relief aid Donor countries Social and networking media and Humanitarian technology 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kansas State UniversityManhattanUSA

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