Disaster funds ‘unfairly divided’

Illegal African migrant in Europe (Image: Manuel LA?A?rida/Spanish Red Cross)

About 161 million people were affected by disasters in 2005

Millions of people are missing out on vital aid despite record-breaking donations from governments and the public, a report says. In 2005, emergency aid reached at least $17bn (A?A?8.6bn) – outstripping any other year, the World Disasters Report says.

But while high-profile cases such as the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina attracted donors, countless other crises were neglected, it says.

It calls on governments, aid agencies and the media to redress the balance.

More than 99,000 people were killed and 161 million affected by natural disasters last year, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

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The report says a string of sudden disasters including the 2004 tsunami, the South Asia quake and a record hurricane season along the US Gulf Coast, led to unprecedented generosity in 2005.

BBC graphic
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The cost of the crises totalled about $160bn – more than double the decade’s annual average, the federation says.

Governments donated more than $12bn in aid – the highest figure since records began in 1970.

Individuals gave more than $5.5bn for survivors of the Indian Ocean tsunami alone – the most NGOs worldwide have ever collected in a year.

Yet, despite these enormous contributions, many millions of people are still suffering, the report says.

Emergency appeals for Chad, Guyana, Ivory Coast, Malawi and Niger raised on average less than $27 in humanitarian aid per person compared with $1,241 for the tsunami.

Appeals for the Republic of Congo, Djibouti and Central African Republic were 40% funded, while the tsunami and South Asia quake appeals were funded 475% and 196% respectively, the report said.

Media spotlight

International Federation President Juan Manuel Suarez Del Toro said such huge disparities were unacceptable.

“The generous response in 2005 shows people and governments are committed to helping those in need.

“Now we must ensure aid goes where it is most needed and that it is not skewed for political, security or media reasons,” he said.

The report argues that uneven media coverage – with its ability to sway the public and politicians – contributed to the inequitable spread of funding.

Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005, killing about 1,300 people, generated 40 times more Western print coverage than Hurricane Stan that killed more than 1,600 people in Guatemala soon afterwards, the report says.

Money sent by Guatemalans working abroad to areas affected by the hurricane totalled $413m – 20 times more than the UN appeal had raised by early December 2005.

Underlying causes

Many millions of people also miss out on potentially life-saving aid because crises go unrecorded, the report says.

In Guatemala, as in many countries, the main disaster databases fail to record vast numbers of localised floods, mudslides or earthquakes.

A child in Nepal (Image copyright: Mikal Schlossen/Danish Red Cross)

About 35,000 women and babies die each year in Nepal due to unsafe childbirth practises

No-one records, for example, how many migrants die in the Sahara or in small boats while attempting to reach Europe.

These small crises add up to more deaths and affect many more people than a few major events, the report says.

The federation advocates directing political will towards creating conditions in which humanitarian agencies can operate in the more hidden and dangerous parts of the world.

The report also calls for large, common emergency response funds; developing a global measure of humanitarian need; and agreeing trigger points for action with donors and host governments.

Markku Niskala, International Federation Secretary General, also called for a better understanding of the underlying causes of disasters such as food insecurity and regional conflict.

“For many people, daily life contains the seeds of crisis. Neglecting their vulnerability turns today’s risk into tomorrow’s disaster,” he said.

BBC graph
1 Tsunami (*More than $1,000)
2 Sudan
3 South Asia earthquake; Chechnya
4 Guatemala; Benin; DCR; Republic of Congo
5 Guinea; Palestinian Territories
6 Great Lakes; Djibouti; Eritrea; Uganda; Burundi
7 Somalia; West Africa; Central African Republic
8 Niger; Malawi; Ivory Coast; Guyana; Chad

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