Disaster funding needs radical reform

01/26/05

Smoke and mirrors: Deficiencies in disaster funding BMJ Volume 330, pp 247-50/Commentary: Change will not happen overnight BMJ Volume 330, pp 50-51

We need to rethink the way we respond to large scale disasters such as the recent tsunami, say international health and relief experts in this week's BMJ.

The pledging of $5bn for survivors of the tsunami only three weeks after the event is an impressive expression of global concern, and is likely to meet most of the vital needs for survival.

However, this response is insufficient for rehabilitation, prevention and reduction of future disasters, and tackling long term vulnerability, write the authors. These more complex efforts should be seen as the common responsibility of states.

The number of disasters, almost all meteorological in nature, is steadily rising year on year, from an average of 150 a year in 1980 to over 450 a year today. Although some of this increase may be due to better reporting, a substantial part represents more people vulnerable to more extreme weather.

Based on the premise that disasters are here to stay, funding arrangements need radical reform, say the authors.

Central to this is the need for UN relief agencies to be funded by assessed contributions rather than having to appeal for money after each disaster. This would allow agencies to build reserve funds, to invest in training, and to act more quickly and save more lives.

The system for tracking donations and spending should also be improved, and "disaster proofing" should be taken seriously in all development planning.

Short term thinking and related funding mechanisms can undermine efforts for a more sustained approach to reducing the risk of disaster, add World Health Organisation researchers in an accompanying commentary.

They believe that new ways must be found to coordinate and invest development and humanitarian funds in fragile states, so that communities at risk can receive adequate support to improve their livelihoods and reduce their vulnerabilities.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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