Timeline of events in humanitarian relief and development

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The following is a timeline of selected notable events in the history of humanitarian aid, international relief and development.


  • 1864 – first action of Red Cross delegates at Dybbol, Denmark.
  • 1968 – Biafran War: disagreement about how to deal with gross human rights abuses causes a split that will result in a group of Red Cross doctors forming Médecins Sans Frontières.
  • 1978 – Massive number of refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos flee to neighbouring countries where they are received by UN agencies like the UNHCR, and private non-governmental agencies. The largest numbers flee to Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and China.
  • January 1, 1980, massive earthquake in Azores Islands, Portugal - leads to relief response by Portuguese government and United States Military from Lajes Air Force Base and Naval Security Group Activity Terceira.
  • 1985 – Ethiopian famine leads to massive relief response by the United States and other countries.
  • 1993 – Workers' Aid for Bosnia is typical of many community-level voluntary organizations formed in the United Kingdom to directly support the victims of the violence in Yugoslavia, as a direct result of public outrage.
  • 1994 – Great Lakes Refugee Crisis in Central Africa. Humanitarian relief to refugees fleeing Rwanda is distributed primarily in Congo/Zaire, and Tanzania.
  • 1995 – responding to a flood in North Korea which had caused a famine, the United States government initially provided over $8 million in general humanitarian aid (the People's Republic of China was the only country to initially contribute more aid). However, eight years later, the United States government has provided $644 million in aid to the country which comprises nearly 50% of the aid going to North Korea.[citation needed]
  • 1999 – Kosovo War and Refugee Crisis. Serb military action led to the flight of refugees to Albania and other neighbouring countries where they were received by UNHCR and other agencies. NATO responded with a bombing campaign against Serbia. Charitable groups from around Europe send many aid convoys similar to those sent to Bosnia several years previously; Aid Convoy is founded.

See also[edit]