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Red Cross Calls For Disaster Cash Boost

The Red Cross estimates that one dollar spent on prevention can save up to 10 dollars on recovery after a disaster. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Mike Patterson
Jakarta (AFP) Nov 27, 2006
Governments and aid agencies need to double their spending on disaster preparedness to protect millions of vulnerable people around the world, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said. Nearly two years after the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 220,000 people in a dozen countries, interest has fallen off, Johan Schaar, the federation's special representative for the tsunami operation, told AFP in an interview.

"It's really important that we keep the focus on this absolute need to protect people who live in exposed communities and exposed countries," he said.

Schaar stressed that the poor were the most vulnerable and pointed out that there were three earthquakes in Indonesia on one day of his visit to "one of the most disaster-affected countries in the world".

"It's a stark illustration of what we're facing and there has to be much more emphasis on investment in disaster reduction in countries that are vulnerable and... it's always the poorest segments of society that are most exposed to this," he said.

The Red Cross estimates that one dollar spent on prevention can save up to 10 dollars on recovery after a disaster.

Of the 10 billion dollars in annual global spending on humanitarian aid, only four percent goes on disaster preparedness, according to the Red Cross, which wants to see it increase to 10 percent, or about one billion dollars a year.

"Ten percent of what the British government spends on humanitarian assistance goes to disaster reduction and I think other donor governments should follow that," Schaar said Sunday after attending a conference of Red Cross and Red Crescent partners here.

While the massive scale of the tsunami and Kashmir earthquake attracted international attention, floods, landslides and quakes occur on an almost daily basis and often prove equally disastrous to those affected.

"The tsunami showed in dramatic terms something which at the local level is a daily reality, particularly for poor people," he said.

"For every natural disaster that AFP or any agency will actually report to the public there are 10 more that no one will ever hear about but that will affect people in the same way at the local level." The poor were worst affected as they had no insurance and no resources to fall back on.

"It is important to see this (disaster preparedness) as part of poverty alleviation, this vulnerability, this exposure of poor people," he said.

But it is not just a problem for the poor and developing countries.

"It's an increasing number of people who are exposed, and of course with climate change and global warming and what we fear will happen as a result, the number will increase even further," he said.

The devastation wrought on New Orleans last year by Hurricane Katrina and the Kobe earthquake in 1995 provided stark reminders that it is not only developing countries that need to take action.

"Most of the world's population is at risk," said federation spokesman John Sparrow.

"Who would have considered the population of New Orleans to be at risk? So we should rephrase the question. 'Who is not at risk?'" he asked.

"It's frightening if you consider how little is being invested in preparing and protecting people."

Schaar said the tsunami had increased awareness -- with a comprehensive disaster management policy now before the Indonesian parliament and the Sri Lankan government having produced a strategic plan -- but stressed the need now "to walk the talk".

"So this is a good start but we need to see also the real investments in this and we need to see donor governments not just supporting the notion of disaster reduction but being prepared to invest and make this part of development aid because that's what it is," he said.

As part of preparations to reduce risk, Schaar underlined the need for homes and social infrastructure to be made disaster-proof. Shortcomings were tragically shown up by the Kashmir earthquake.

"What we saw in Pakistan in October last year, when tens of thousands of children were killed in their schools -- this is not acceptable, this must not happen," he said.

And reconstruction efforts such as in tsunami-hit Aceh had to leave communities safer than they were before.

"When a big disaster has happened and reconstruction and recovery begins that is always an opportunity to make sure that what is being rebuilt provides communities with more safety than they had before the disaster," he said.

"President Clinton invented this slogan of 'building back better', which is a wonderful slogan, but what does it really mean and how do we know if we really have built back better? We won't know that immediately, it will take time."

Source: Agence France-Presse

Related Links
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
Bring Order To A World Of Disasters

Red Cross Calls For Stronger Alliances To Fight Disasters
Singapore (AFP) Nov 23, 2006
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement on Thursday called for stronger alliances and cooperation in the Asia Pacific to improve help for victims in the world's most disaster-prone region. Markku Niskala, secretary general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that "scaling up our work and strategic partnerships" was needed to reduce deaths and injuries from disease and disasters.

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