(BPT) - The number of natural disasters has increased five-fold in the past 50 years, driven by population growth, climate change, and improved reporting. As the number of disasters continues to rise, so do their associated costs. In 2022, over 29 weather-related events caused damage worth more than $29 billion. The Global Humanitarian Overview predicts that the number of people in need will jump to 339 million in 2023, an increase of over 23% from 2022, and that the estimated cost of the humanitarian response will be $51.5 billion, a 25% increase compared to 2022. To meet this growing challenge, organizations around the world are collaborating and developing new solutions to help communities better prepare for, and recover from, natural disasters and other events.
In 2017, Amazon saw an opportunity to apply its operational expertise, technology, and worldwide logistics network to provide fast and effective support to organizations fighting large-scale natural disasters. Since that time, Amazon and its cloud computing business, Amazon Web Services (AWS), have stepped in to help communities recover from 99 weather-related disasters, donating 22 million items over the course of these efforts.
Amazon’s global distribution network, paired with cloud technologies, can be an important component to address global disasters, as well as large-scale crises like the war in Ukraine. AWS’s Disaster Preparedness and Response team works together with Disaster Relief by Amazon during these events deploying cloud technology to help with critical functions like communications, situational awareness, and humanitarian mapping — all of them essential in the wake of natural disasters.
“The humanitarian crises we face today are increasingly global and complex,” said David Zapolsky, senior vice president and general counsel, Amazon. “We believe the private and public sectors can work together to address these difficult challenges by deploying resources where they are most needed. Whether it’s using our global logistics network to distribute aid more quickly, donating goods, or providing financial donations, Amazon will continue working to improve the lives of communities in need and people impacted by natural disasters to make a positive and meaningful difference.”
As part of these efforts, the company has committed more than $75 million in support to help the people of Ukraine to date. This support during the war in Ukraine includes the donation of 2 million critical relief products — from medical supplies for Ukraine hospitals to blankets, food, toys, and books for refugees crossing the border. AWS provided cloud computing support to help the government preserve vital Ukrainian government, education, and banking institution data.
“We are just beginning to realize the power that cloud technologies can have in humanitarian efforts, from natural disasters to driving more equitable health outcomes,” said Maggie Carter, director of AWS Global Social Impact. “By applying the cloud to these problems, we can innovate and scale at a speed previously unimaginable to drive real, measurable impact.”
That impact was evident during Hurricane Ian in October 2022 as the AWS Disaster Preparedness and Response team deployed volunteers and AWS technology alongside relief organization Help.NGO. Starting in Cape Coral, Florida, AWS helped with activities including establishing internet connectivity for community centers like firehouses to help first responders, relief organizations, and impacted individuals who are relying on these centers for support. Simultaneously, Amazon activated its Atlanta Relief Hub and donated $1 million to the Florida Disaster Fund to help communities impacted by Hurricane Ian. Amazon teams secured 10 trucks with over 360,000 bottles of water and strategically positioned vehicles around Florida and in nearby states, so they could quickly deliver clean water to impacted communities.
When Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico in September 2022, Amazon employed its Amazon Air 737 to ship hundreds of thousands of supplies for Puerto Rican residents, including water filters, tarps, medical supplies, hygiene kits, and food items. Once there, the dozens of pallets of donated products were distributed by partners like the International Medical Corps, SBPUSA and Feeding America to ensure that supplies made it to the people who needed them most as quickly as possible. In the months following, Disaster Relief by Amazon continued supplying much needed relief as part of continued flights to the island. Amazon also expanded their Atlanta Amazon Relief Hub to double its size during the 2022 hurricane season, distributing 1 million critical relief supplies in and outside the U.S. in the wake of natural disasters.
When floods ravaged Kentucky and Missouri in the summer, Disaster Relief by Amazon quickly reached out to support the relief efforts. Responding to requests from Save the Children, Feeding America, the American Red Cross, and local organizations, the team donated over 580,000 relief items, including ready-to-eat meals, water, shelter items, solar chargers and lights, backpacks, pack and plays, strollers, baby tubs, baby carriers, and more than 265,000 diapers and training pants. In Mississippi, Amazon used its logistics and delivery expertise to quickly secure bottles of water for Jackson residents. On September 3, just four days after the city’s emergency declaration, the company held its first water distribution event, handing out 72,000 bottles of water. Amazon also provided 72 pallets of water to support the Jackson School District’s 54 school sites.
Amazon and AWS continue to work backwards to help communities impacted by disasters through expertise, volunteer support, technology and beyond. To learn more about how Amazon and AWS provide support to communities impacted by global events, visit: https://www.aboutamazon.com/impact/community/disaster-relief.