Five ways we could do disaster relief better
This week in Istanbul, the world’s leading humanitarian agencies, donors and governments are hammering out solutions for a world in crisis.
Over the last two decades disasters affected some 218 million people each year. We’re seeing more severe cyclones, droughts, cold waves and floods. Humanitarian workers and hospitals are regularly bombed or shot, in flagrant disregard for the laws of war.
Meanwhile, aid agencies are under more pressure to be efficient and lean to demonstrate value for their donors’ money.
It’s time to reshape aid. It needs to be much less about flying in international relief teams and a lot more about managing crises locally.
Invest more in preparing for disasters, so we can spend less on responding to them
Red Cross studies show that every dollar spent on reducing risks, saves at least $18 in the cost of disaster response. Yet only $1.50 of every $10 ‘disaster dollars’ worldwide is spent on risk reduction. This is as true in Australia as it is in the rest of the world.
Use climate forecasting systems to avert suffering
We knew, well before Papua New Guinea communities ran out of water or Ethiopia plunged in to a food crisis, that the El Niño climate cycle would lead to drought. But the humanitarian system is largely funded by appeals: a crisis arises, enough people suffer to garner global sympathy, and then funds are sought to help.
We must try a different way. Forecast-based financing is a model where a pool of funds is made available as soon as a crisis can be reliably predicted.
A recent trial of forecast-based financing in Bangladesh shows highly promising results: every dollar spent to help families prepare for a forecasted flood would save three dollars in losses when the floods came. This year, we’ll be adapting the model for the Pacific.
Improve the laws that govern disaster response
When Nepal was devastated by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake last year, international aid poured in, though much was stopped at the border. Nepal’s legal and regulatory framework for disaster management had not been updated in 34 years, causing vital hold-ups for relief supplies and international medical teams at customs.
Disaster laws make aid more effective. They give governments a mandate to prepare for disasters and coordinate life-saving humanitarian aid. Improving these laws will speed up aid delivery, avoid duplication and unnecessary costs.
Local businesses should provide for their own communities
We need agreements with local suppliers, so that appropriate relief goods are available before disasters strike. Local warehouses must be ready to house the goods and we need air, sea and land transport services to distribute them.
Take advantage of mobile phones
The rapid uptake of mobile technologies can greatly change the way aid works. We can track the spread of a virus through surveys on a mobile phone. A PIN-secured SMS service could be the quickest and easiest way to get emergency cash to families who have lost their homes in a disaster.
This is not only a time to change the aid system, but also to stand up for the values and principles behind it. We should never accept poverty and deprivation. We should never stop trying to prevent and alleviate human suffering. And we should never let borders, conflicts and politics get in the way. To read more click here.
The 5th Australian and New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference will be held at Jupiters Gold Coast, QLD next week 30-31 May 2016. The Conference theme ‘EARTH, FIRE and RAIN’ will continue to examine issues that impact preparedness, resilience, response and capability.
There is still time to register. To register for the conference CLICK HERE.
Delegates may also wish to attend the 2016 Australian and New Zealand Search and Rescue Conference (ANZSAR); Land, Sea & Air which will follow the Disaster and Emergency Management Conference on 1st June discussing the issues and challenges in Search and Rescue and continue the support of professional development in new training, techniques and requirements.
Special discount rates are being offered to those that wish to attend both Conferences.