The very term "humanitarian" denotes caring and compassion. It's intrinsic to our nature; we want to help those less fortunate. That can be manifested in myriad ways, from lending a hand to our neighbors to writing a check to provide food and shelter for those struggling half a world away. And it feels good.
The face of humanitarian aid has changed dramatically over time, even though the core values of giving have changed very little. Today, there are thousands of organizations established to offer assistance to those in need, providing a conduit for those who want to give. Those entities can be an extension of a government, such as the United States Agency for International Development, or founded in the private sector, such as Mercy Corps International. A good number have a religious component. Many work on various levels, ranging from direct assistance to lobbying world leaders to increase aid. Most, though, have the singular goal of helping people directly.
Sadly, there are also scams, run by disreputable individuals looking to take advantage of your good will. To avoid those, consult a watchdog agency, such as Charity Navigator, which ranks the financial health of more than 5,500 United States-based charitable organizations at work worldwide [Source: Charity Navigator]. Most of the organizations on the following pages have received high marks from Charity Navigator.