The 15 Largest Humanitarian Organizations (And What They Do)

Through providing essentials like food, water, medical supplies, and shelter, humanitarianism saves lives and reduces suffering. While humanitarianism prioritizes what’s needed right now, aid is needed to reach long-term development goals, too. Humanitarian groups serve millions of people around the world. Here are fifteen of the largest organizations:

International Federation Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC)

Global presence: 192 national societies

The world’s largest humanitarian organization, the IFRC serves around 160 million people each year. Through its national societies, the organization provides essentials like water, food, and medical supplies. It works in disaster relief, health training, assistance in conflict zones, and more.

The World Health Organization

Global presence: 194 Member States of the UN

An agency of the United Nations, the WHO monitors health around the world and coordinates an international response. It works across six regions and has more than 150 offices. Tasks include preparing for health emergencies, developing health tools, responding to emergencies, and supporting supply delivery.

UNICEF

Global presence: 190+ countries

Another UN agency, UNICEF prioritizes the needs of children through programs in childhood nutrition, safe water, education, and more. It works in both humanitarian and development aid. In 1965, UNICEF won the Nobel Peace Prize.

AmeriCares

Global presence: 164 countries

During emergencies, this organization responds with medical supplies and clinical services. It also offers health programs through over 4,000 health centers in different countries. Since 1994, AmeriCares has also run free clinics in Connecticut for people without insurance using networks of volunteer doctors, nurses, administrative personnel, and more.

Save the Children

Global presence: 117+ countries

Founded in 1919, Save the Children is one of the oldest and largest humanitarian NGOs in the world. It focuses on programs for children and works in areas like disaster response, nutrition, health, shelter, and education.

Catholic Relief Services

Global presence: 100+ countries

The world’s leading Catholic humanitarian organization, CRS focuses on emergency response, health, education, agriculture, and more. Its programs include microfinancing, sanitation projects, and HIV services.

CARE International

Global presence: 104 countries

Founded after WWII, CARE focuses on emergency relief, women’s rights, food security, and climate change. It can be found working on five continents reaching around 80 million people each year.

World Vision

Global presence: 90+ countries

With programs on six continents and a multi-billion dollar revenue, this evangelical Christian organization is one of the largest NGOs. It prioritizes children’s rights, education, health, nutrition, safe water, and disaster management. It has had consultative status with organizations with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, as well as partnerships with various UN agencies.

Direct Relief

Global presence: 90+ countries

This organization founded in 1948 offers assistance during emergencies and to refugees. It focuses on emergency readiness, disease prevention and treatment, and disaster awareness. In 2020, it shipped $1 billion in medical aid to over 90 countries.

World Food Programme (WFP)

Global presence: 88 countries

This UN agency focuses on world hunger. It has programs for emergencies as well as long-term development. In 2019, WFP served almost 100 million people and in 2020, it won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Doctors Without Borders

Global presence: 60+ countries

This famous humanitarian organization (also known as Médecins Sans Frontières) provides medical assistance during emergencies like natural disasters and in conflict zones. Founded in 1971 by French doctors and journalists, the goal of the organization was to expand medical care across borders. To protect its impartial mission, it seeks to eliminate political, economic, and religious factors when it makes decisions. Doctors Without Borders helps around 11 million people every year.

Action Against Hunger

Global presence: 50+ countries

This international nonprofit has been focusing on world hunger since 1979. Programs include providing food, water, healthcare, and training to small-scale farmers. Founded in France, AAH headquarters are located in six countries.

International Rescue Committee

Global presence: 40+ countries

IRC programs focus on sanitation, shelter, safe water, and education for refugees and anyone displaced by natural disasters, war, or persecution. Every year, the organization reaches millions of people. It also helps refugees with resettlement and self-sufficiency.

International Medical Corps

Global presence: 30 countries

IMC provides emergency medical services, healthcare training, and development programs. Since its founding in 1984, it’s provided $3.6 billion in healthcare services. In 2021, the WHO classified the organization as the only NGO that offers both Fixed and Mobile EMT Type 1 capabilities.

Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee (BRAC)

Global presence: 11 countries

Founded in 1972, BRAC has grown to be one of the world’s largest anti-poverty NGOs. It’s been #1 on NGO Advisor’s list of the top NGOs in the world for four years in a row. BRAC focuses on encouraging economic participation and empowering people through various programs. It works in areas like Uganda, Bangladesh, Sudan, and Indonesia. In 2019, BRAC announced its intent to scale up to reach at least 250 million people within the next decade.

About Emmaline Soken-Huberty

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.