CRED has been active for over 40 years in the fields of international disaster and conflict health studies, with activities linking relief, rehabilitation and development. The Centre promotes research, training and technical expertise on humanitarian emergencies, particularly in public health and epidemiology.
In 1971, Professor Michel F. Lechat, an epidemiologist at the Université catholique de Louvain, initiated a research programme to study health issues in disaster situations. Two years later he established CRED as non-profit institution with international status. The Centre became a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre in 1980.
Following the retirement of Professor Lechat in 1992, Professor Debarati Guha-Sapir, a researcher in the programme since 1984, became CRED's Director.