Thursday, January 26, 2012

Disaster aid faces value-for-money test

Katie Nguyen and Megan Rowling in AlertNet: Picture this: a terrible drought forces you to abandon your meagre plot of farmland, so you migrate to a city where the jobs are, only to end up living in a slum regularly submerged by floods. It's a scenario that's going to become more and more familiar in coming years as climate change and rapid urbanisation play an ever-greater role in shaping humanitarian crises, according to an AlertNet poll of the world's biggest aid organisations.

To adapt to the new reality, aid agencies will need to invest more in disaster prevention and learn a trick or two from the private sector about how to make more efficient use of limited resources, the survey of 41 relief organisations shows. "The rising trend in the number of disasters over the past five years shows no sign of slowing down," said Gareth Owen, humanitarian director at Save the Children UK.

"Year on year, we are responding more frequently and on a larger scale to increasing numbers of disasters." Asked to rank the factors most likely to intensify humanitarian needs, 28 of 41 aid agencies put the risk of more frequent and destructive climate-related floods, droughts and storms at the top.

This was followed by mass displacement due to climate change and environmental damage, urbanisation, high and volatile food prices, and the expectation of more failing states. With needs expected to grow and national budgets squeezed by the global financial crisis, some rich donor states are pressing the charities they fund to boost value for money in relief efforts.

...More than half the agencies said focusing more on disaster risk reduction (DRR) -- everything from building more durable houses and schools in safer places to teaching children to swim -- would help the sector cope better in the long run....

A woman in Sri Lanka rescued during 2008 flooding, shot by trokilinochchi, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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