American Refugee Committee

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American Refugee Committee
ARC Logo
Type International NGO
Headquarters Minneapolis, MN, US
Region served
Website Official Website

The American Refugee Committee (ARC) is an international nonprofit, nonsectarian organization that has provided humanitarian assistance and training to millions of beneficiaries over the last 30 years.

In 2011, ARC helped nearly 2.5 million people get essential services to regain their health and take back control of their lives. ARC works with its partners and constituencies to provide opportunities and expertise to communities of refugees and internally displaced persons in seven countries in Africa, Asia and Europe, including Iraq, Kosovo, and in the Darfur region of Sudan and is currently providing for emergency relief and recovery in Haiti. ARC provides shelter, clean water and sanitation, health care, skills training, microcredit education, protection to help survivors of war and natural disasters to rebuild their lives with dignity, health care, security and self-sufficiency.


Moved by the plight of millions of men, women and children affected by the conflict in Southeast Asia, Chicago businessman Neal Ball founded the American Refugee Committee in 1979.[1]

Cambodian medics trained by ARC at Nong Samet Refugee Camp, May 1984.

One of ARC's first programs opened at Khao-I-Dang refugee camp in Thailand in late 1979.[2] ARC also provided medical and public health services at Nong Samet Refugee Camp,[3] Phanat Nikhom,[4] Ban Vinai Refugee Camp[5] and Site Two Refugee Camp until 1993, when the camps closed and ARC turned its attention to programs inside Cambodia. ARC later provided health, sanitation and laboratory services at Khao Phlu Refugee Camp from 1997 until 1999.[6] ARC pioneered the treatment of tuberculosis in refugee-camp settings using an innovative program structure that other international agencies had argued was not feasible.[7][8]

Current projects[edit]

Program areas[edit]

ARC has humanitarian programs and provides medical care, shelter, protection services, clean water, community development support, microloans, and help for women who have suffered violence, as well as other opportunities to help refugees.ARC Programs.

In Africa, ARC has programs in Liberia,[12] Sudan,[13] Darfur,[14] Uganda,[15] Rwanda[16] and Sierra Leone.[17]

In Asia, ARC programs are concentrated in Pakistan[18] and in Thailand.[19] In Pakistan, ARC has recently been working with to help civilians who have fled fighting between the government and the Taliban in northwest Pakistan. ARC also responded to the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, providing relief services in Sri Lanka and Indonesia and a Fishing Boat Project in Thailand.[20]


On January 12, 2010 a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck just outside Port-au-Prince. The capital city and surrounding towns were completely destroyed and a million people were left homeless.[21] 50,000 were reported to have died. On January 14, the first ARC emergency response team members arrived in Port-au-Prince. They started planning the response, hiring local staff, and coordinating with the United Nations and other partners. In the following days and weeks additional staff with expertise in emergency response, logistics, health, water/sanitation, shelter, and protection arrived in Haiti. ARC distributed food to 2,200 people in the Delmas district of Port-au-Prince, 1,000 hygiene and kitchen kits in the Nazon district. On January 26, ARC began managing settlement of 5,000 people in Terrain Acra district of Port-au-Prince, working with multiple relief agencies. In the next few months the camp size grew to 25,000 people.[22] Of the 19 most crowded settlements (of 300 total), Terrain Acra was the only one with an organization overseeing and coordinating relief activities.

Four cargo planes carrying 90,000 pounds of donated emergency medical and shelter supplies arrived in Port-au-Prince from Minneapolis. In Terraine Acra ARC opened a health clinic, distributed shelter materials, built latrines and sanitation systems. On February 9, the first three child-friendly spaces opened in the Terraine Acra settlement. 300 children were expected and 1,000 showed up. On April 10, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro visited ARC's camp in Terrain Acra [1]. ARC is working with the local community and coordinating with international and local NGOs to help people survive and rebuild. [2] [23]

Côte d'Ivoire[edit]

The American Refugee Committee team has been responding to the refugee crisis on the border between Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia since December 2010, constructing shelters to house refugees in Nimba County, Liberia.[24]


On Sunday June 20, 2010 ARC's Rapid Response Team arrived in Osh, Kyrgyzstan to assess the situation and the needs of the affected communities.[25]


In the fall of 2003, ARC launched a program to assist those who had been displaced by the Second Liberian Civil War. ARC began providing services to people living in camps at Brown’s Town and Unification Town and continues serving those locations today.[26]


Afghan refugees[edit]

Today, there are millions of Afghan refugees living in refugee camps in Pakistan’s Baluchistan Province. Some fled the oppression of the Taliban, others the Soviet invasion in the 1980s. For years they have known no way of life other than in the camps. Entire generations have grown up without the right to move about freely or the possibility to make a living for their families.

ARC provides primary health care to 98,000 Afghan refugees in the camps and in the surrounding communities. ARC also provides special attention to pregnant mothers and training for refugees in caring for their own communities. ARC helps refugees cope with the frustrations of living in a camp by organizing youth clubs and activities, working to prevent and respond to domestic violence in the camps, and building awareness of the threat of HIV/AIDS.

Earthquake relief[edit]

In October 2005, a massive earthquake shattered communities throughout mountainous northern Pakistan. The impact has been long-lasting, with entire families and villages wiped out and vital infrastructure destroyed. Within hours of the quake, ARC began getting survivors in Bagh District the emergency relief they needed – clean water, nutritious food, shelters for those left homeless and in need of emergency medical attention. Today, ARC's efforts are focused on working with communities to rebuild health care clinics and water systems in the region so that survivors can care for themselves.

2009 Pakistan displacement crisis[edit]

In the spring of 2009, three million people fled for their lives from fighting between Taliban forces and the Pakistani government in the mountainous region of northwestern Pakistan. Many fled to camps without clean water or enough to eat. But the vast majority have been taken in by local communities, packed in tight quarters – sometimes 50-60 people in very small homes. Water and sanitation systems were on the brink of collapse, and there was a serious threat of outbreaks of disease.[27]

ARC quickly began trucking clean water into refugee camps and digging wells and latrines to ensure safe and sanitary living conditions. Aid workers have also stepped in at local clinics to provide comprehensive medical care and to try to reach as many survivors as possible.

ARC is also currently working to help Pakistani families who have begun returning. So far, 100,000 families have gone back to the Swat Valley. But the fighting destroyed infrastructure and other systems, leaving people without basics like clean water and sanitation. ARC will soon begin work digging wells and repairing infrastructure so that basic necessities will be waiting for families when they return home.[28]

2010 floods[edit]

In late July 2010 monsoon rainfall caused flash floods swelling the river Swat and killing over 1,100 people. ARC's Emergency Response teams began work as the flooding subsided in early August, providing clean water and mobile health clinics for survivors. ARC's mobile health teams, especially water and sanitation teams, assembled and began coordinating with partners and authorities. Swat, Nowshera, Mardan, and Peshawar were the most severely affected areas. Roads were washed out, bridges gone, internet and telephone were functioning intermittently. Many affected communities remained inaccessible except by helicopter; others had been entirely obliterated.[29]


ARC began work in Rwanda in December 1994, following the genocide. ARC manages all three major refugee camps in Rwanda, providing health care, water, construction, and sanitation services as well as programs combating gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS. ARC also manages successful income generation programs in the camps and hires and trains refugees wherever possible. In 2005, the government of Rwanda asked ARC to build a refugee camp at Nyabiheke to accommodate 5,000 new refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. ARC quickly constructed roads, bridges, shelters, latrines, storage warehouses, and health centers, and began receiving refugees within a month of the request. The culminating achievement of the construction efforts was the drilling of a borehole to tap an aquifer, which provides 100,000 liters of naturally purified, filtered water per day. In the fall of 2007, ARC expanded Nyabiheke Camp to receive 2,000 more people fleeing increased violence.[30]



The American Refugee Committee is taking a variety of actions to directly help millions of Darfuris who are without access to clean water, who are unable to make a living for their families, who live in camps with no access to farmland or who are forced to flee fighting too frequently to raise any crops.

ARC's corps of midwives assist pregnant mothers to safely deliver their babies, and health clinics provide treatment and medications to thousands of people each month. ARC is working with Darfuri communities to dig wells that will provide safe drinking water to thousands, and ARC is partnering with families to plant crops that will feed and support them. ARC provides tools and seeds and the families bring the farming skills to grow the food that will sustain them. In schools ARC provides children with nutritious meals. Parents have one less mouth to feed, and their children will be educated and better prepared to help rebuild the region when the fighting has ended.[31]

Southern Sudan[edit]

ARC began operations in Kajo Keji County in Southern Sudan in 1994, providing health services to people displaced by the war. Operations have since grown dramatically, and ARC now operates an integrated program of health care, water and sanitation, and microenterprise development for war-affected residents and returning refugees. Since 2006, ARC has been implementing a major, long-term initiative to expand comprehensive reproductive health care services in Southern Sudan. ARC has recently initiated the Through Our Eyes project in southern Sudan, using hands-on video and community participation to get people talking about gender-based violence and how to prevent it. ARC currently works in Juba, Kajo Keji, Malakal, Nimule, and Yei.[32]


ARC's Outpatient Dept. 1, Nong Samet Refugee Camp, May 1984.

ARC's oldest program, ARC has operated continuously in Thailand since 1979. Currently ARC works in refugee camps along the Thai-Burmese border, providing health care services, health education, and water, sanitation and environmental health services to Karen refugees in camps on the border with Myanmar. ARC focuses on building the capacity and skills of constituents, training them to become health care providers and community leaders so they may apply these skills upon their return to Myanmar or their relocation to a third country.[33]

ARC also operates in coastal villages between Phuket and Ranong in the south of Thailand.[34]


ARC has been working in Uganda off-and-on since 1994, when ARC began operations in neighboring Southern Sudan. Today, ARC manages 14 internally displaced persons camps in the northern Gulu District of Uganda.[35]

Awards and distinctions[edit]

ARC has been highly rated for the efficiency and effectiveness of their programs, perhaps most notably with an A rating by,[36] a charity watchdog site created by the American Institute of Philanthropy to rate Non-profit organizations based on the ratio of funds spent on humanitarian aid compared to administrative overhead. Reader's Digest Magazine, Money Magazine,, and Charity Navigator also highly rate ARC.


Records of the American Refugee Committee are available for research use. They include domestic and international program records, organizational files, correspondence, subject files, publications, printed material, and newspaper clippings.[37]


  1. ^ ARC 2008 Annual Report, pp. 4-5.
  2. ^ Louis Braile, We Shared the Peeled Orange: the letters of "Papa Louis" from the Thai-Cambodian Border Refugee Camps, 1981-1993. Saint Paul, Syren Book Co., 2005.
  3. ^ ARC 1983 Annual Report, pp. 4-8.
  4. ^ Committee for the Coordination of Displaced Persons in Thailand. The CCSDPT handbook: Refugee Services in Thailand. Bangkok: Craftsman Press, 1983, p. 49.
  5. ^ CCSDPT, p. 51.
  6. ^ Virginia Morrison, "Contraceptive Need Among Cambodian Refugees in Khao Phlu Camp," International Family Planning Perspectives Volume 26, Number 4, December 2000, 188-192.
  7. ^ Miles SH, Maat RB. "A Successful Supervised Outpatient Short-course Tuberculosis Treatment Program in an Open Refugee Camp on the Thai-Cambodian Border." Am Rev Respir Dis 1984;130(5):827-30.
  8. ^ Maat R.B. "The Major Disruption at Samet, Christmas, 1984." Occasional Paper No. 1. Washington, D.C.: Jesuit Refugee Service, 1985.
  9. ^ ARC Through Our Eyes program
  10. ^ Through Our Eyes program video
  11. ^ ARC 2008 Annual Report, pp. 19.
  12. ^ ARC Liberia
  13. ^ ARC Sudan
  14. ^ ARC Darfur
  15. ^ ARC Uganda
  16. ^ ARC Rwanda
  17. ^ ARC Sierra Leone
  18. ^ ARC Pakistan
  19. ^ ARC Thailand
  20. ^ "ARC's Fishing Boat Project: One Year Later."
  21. ^ ARC Special Report Haiti: After the Earthquake, 2010.
  22. ^ Video of ARC Terrain Acra settlement
  23. ^ ARC Special Report Haiti: After the Earthquake, 2010.
  24. ^ "Thousands of Refugees Flee to Liberia in Wake of Ivory Coast Violence," ARC website.
  25. ^ Crisis in Kyrgyzstan
  26. ^ "ARC in Liberia," ARC website.
  27. ^ "On the ground in Pakistan after devastating floods," Minnesota Public Radio/NPR.
  28. ^ ARC 2008 Annual Report, pp. 21.
  29. ^ "Pakistan Flooding: 800 people killed, 1 million affected by devastating floods," ARC Website.
  30. ^ "ARC in Rwanda," ARC website.
  31. ^ ARC 2008 Annual Report, pp. 20.
  32. ^ "ARC in Southern Sudan," ARC website.
  33. ^ "ARC in Thailand," ARC website.
  34. ^ "ARC's Fishing Boat Project Bush-Clinton Tsunami Relief Fund Selects ARC to Receive One Million-Dollar Grant for Thailand Fishing Boat Project," ARC website.
  35. ^ "ARC in Uganda," ARC website.
  36. ^ American Institute of Philanthropy Website
  37. ^ American Refugee Committee records

External links[edit]