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Governments must do more to stop millions being “left behind”
by Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
Oct 2018
Millions of people living in crisis may not be receiving the humanitarian assistance they desperately need, says a new report from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
The 2018 World Disasters Report says that the fact that millions of people are being left out cannot simply be attributed to a lack of funding for humanitarian action.
Elhadj As Sy, IFRC Secretary General, said: “This report makes for sobering reading for everyone involved in humanitarian assistance. Even if all humanitarian appeals were fully funded, it is likely that many millions of people would still be left behind. This report should shake the entire international humanitarian sector into actively seeking out those left desperate and hidden in the shadows.”
The 2018 World Disasters Report highlights five ways that the international humanitarian system misses people in need. Poor information about who is most in need and limited understanding about how best to help them means that programmes are not always targeting the right people in the right way.
Inadequate access to people who need support, and a lack of flexibility in expanding humanitarian assistance to people outside the traditional areas of conflict, disaster, displacement or disease often compound the problems. And inadequate funding is often forcing agencies to make very difficult choices.
The report provides a series of recommendations for donors, affected governments and aid groups to bridge these gaps in services. Recommendations include the need for better data on those most in need of humanitarian assistance and, critically, a call to governments and agencies to prioritize and incentivize support for people hardest to reach.
The report also makes a strong call for a major shift in how humanitarian resources are allocated, so that more money and more trust is put in the hands of local and national humanitarian organizations.
“If the vulnerable and under-supported groups discussed in the report are to be identified, reached, understood and supported, the international humanitarian sector must invest in local and national actors”, said Mr Sy.
“These groups, including National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, are uniquely placed to help overcome the chronic issues outlined in our report. They are already present in crisis settings. They speak local languages, understand local customs, and are often best placed to find and support the most isolated and vulnerable people in a manner that is fast, culturally appropriate and, we believe, cost effective.
“They are our best hope for ensuring that those most in need of help are no longer left behind.”
Despite many international commitments to support local and national actors, progress has been slow. Only 2.9 per cent of international humanitarian assistance was provided directly to local and national responders in 2017.
* Access the 2018 World Disasters Report via the link below.

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Climate Change is the ultimate ‘Threat Multiplier’
by Mercy Corps, FAO, UNISDR, agencies
Oct. 2018
Climate change is a major multiplier of disaster losses, by Mami Mizutori & Patricia Espinosa. (UNISDR)
Climate change is now a major multiplier of disaster losses worldwide. There has been a doubling of extreme weather events in the last twenty years withthe world experiencing some of the hottest years on record.
A new report published to mark International Day for Disaster Reduction, October 13, spells out clearly that 91% of major disaster events are extreme weather events and they account for 77% of the recorded economic losses from climate and geophysical events.
Total recorded economic losses for the last twenty years are significantly under-reported but come to a total of almost $3 trillion, according to an analysis of the global data base maintained by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED). And, a whopping $2,245 billion of that is attributed to climate-related disasters.
At the end of this year in Poland, governments are set to complete the implementation guidelines of the Paris Climate Change Agreement – a crucial step to ensure that the agreement can be truly effective.
The international community needs to support all nations in their efforts to develop national adaptation plans and to integrate climate change and disaster risk reduction fully into their development objectives.
For this, the developed country pledge of mobilizing $100 billion per year by 2020 for developing countries’ climate change efforts will be crucial.
This is a relatively small investment in light of the size of economic losses from extreme weather events.
Last year set a new record for economic losses caused by extreme weather events, notably floods and storms, which are aided and abetted by record rises in land and sea surface temperatures, rising sea levels and more vapor in the atmosphere.
Global mean temperatures last year were 1.1C above pre-industrial temperatures and the world’s nine warmest years have all occurred since 2005. Odds are that 2018 will become the 4th hottest year on record.
These profound changes often find expression in unspeakable tragedies such as the loss of lives, homes and livelihoods in wildfires. Droughts are contributing to a rise in world hunger for the first time in a decade.
Unprecedented levels of rainfall contribute to the loss of many lives in events such as the collapse of a hillside in Sierra Leone or a dam in Laos. Atlantic hurricane seasons can kill thousands of people. Typhoons in Asia force the evacuation of millions.
What these events are telling us is that the level of risk that already exists is being heightened in an unprecedented way by climate change.
The community of nations has recognized that measures to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change are just as important as cutting greenhouse gases.
The world requires an integrated approach to disaster risk reduction and tackling climate change. This means integrating implementation of the Paris Agreement and the global plan for reducing disaster losses, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.
The push agreed by UN member states to increase national and local strategies for managing disaster risk includes taking account of the impacts of climate change, poverty, rapid urbanization, environmental degradation and weak regulation of land use and construction.
The failure to adopt a risk-informed approach to social and economic development would have dire consequences in a world that is on course not for the desired 1.5C rise in temperatures but 3C+ at current levels of ambition.
The clock is ticking down. Only by fully translating strategies such as the Sendai Framework, the UN’s Sustainable Global Goals and the Paris Agreement into concrete action at all levels can we adequately protect the peoples of the world and the economies they depend on.
* Mami Mizutori is the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction and head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. Patricia Espinosa is Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
* The last twenty years have seen a dramatic rise of 151% in direct economic losses from climate-related disasters, according to a report released by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction:
Oct. 2018
IPCC urges immediate action to stay below 1.5 degrees C of global warming, by Neal Keny-Guyer. (Mercy Corps)
The global humanitarian organization Mercy Corps urges governments and businesses to take urgent steps to stay below 1.5 degrees C of global warming or face greater suffering around the world, especially among the world’s most vulnerable people.
Mercy Corps’ call for action follows the publication of the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, which warns that without drastic and urgent change, the world will warm by about 1.5 degrees C over pre-industrial temperatures by as soon as 2040, causing more extreme weather events, droughts, flooding, heat stress, changing and unpredictable harvest seasons, and sea levels rises.
As communities and individuals become more desperate to survive, climate change becomes the ultimate “threat multiplier” and may ignite social disruption and violent conflict.
“Climate change is not a distant threat,” says Neal Keny-Guyer, CEO of Mercy Corps. “It’s a driver of fragility and conflict today, and this report is a frightening wake-up call. If we don’t take urgent and concrete steps now, the world we leave to our children will be hotter, hungrier and wracked by conflict.”
Mercy Corps has long worked with vulnerable communities and individuals to adapt to climate change. For example, in Timor-Leste, one of the hungriest countries in the world, frequent floods, landslides and droughts pose serious threats to food security. Good harvests are a matter of survival. The organization works with communities there to grow drought-resistant crops and build bamboo walls to protect gardens from landslides.
“Three out of four people on earth depend solely on agriculture,” says Keny-Guyer. “Climate change turns people’s lives into a desperate guessing game, and for these people, the effects of climate change are a matter of life and death.”
Keeping warming to within 1.5 degrees C is vital if the world is to mitigate and adapt to the worst effects of climate change. Therefore, Mercy Corps calls for increasing the use of renewable energy such as wind and solar; helping communities better plan ways to reduce risk from natural disasters; ensuring vulnerable communities have access to good weather data and early warning systems; and developing innovative financial systems for people who have lost their livelihoods. IPCC Summary (34pp):
* IPCC 1.5 Report - The Impacts of Global Warming on Human Health (WHO):
# Breaking the link between extreme weather and extreme poverty - Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery.(GFDRR)
In 2013, an estimated one million Filipinos were plunged into poverty after Typhoon Haiyan sapped $12.9 billion from the national economy and destroyed over a million homes.
No sooner had the 2010 Cyclone Aila devastated coastal areas of Bangladesh than unemployment and poverty levels surged 49 percent and 22 percent, respectively.
Economic strains facing Guatemala after Hurricane Stan in 2005 forced 7.3 percent of affected families to send children to work instead of school.
Whenever disaster strikes, it leaves more than just a trail of devastation—it also leaves communities further in the grip of poverty.
And yet, when we hear of natural disasters today, their financial cost—that is, the damage inflicted on buildings, infrastructure, and agricultural production—is what catches the headlines. New research, however, suggests that reducing natural disasters to their monetary impact does not paint the whole picture. In fact, it distorts it.
That’s because a simple price tag represents only the losses suffered by people wealthy enough to have something to lose in the first place. It fails to account for the crushing impact of disasters on the world’s poor, who suffer much more in relative terms than wealthier people.
Through this lens, a report released by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), warns that natural disasters are a greater impediment to ending global poverty than previously understood. Launched at COP22, the report, Unbreakable: Building the Resilience of the Poor in the Face of Natural Disasters underscores the urgency for climate-smart policies that better protect the world’s most vulnerable.
“Severe climate shocks threaten to roll back decades of progress against poverty,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “Storms, floods, and droughts have dire human and economic consequences, with poor people often paying the heaviest price. Building resilience to disasters not only makes economic sense, it is a moral imperative.”
Compared to their wealthier counterparts, poor people are more likely to live in fragile housing in disaster-prone areas, and work jobs in sectors dangerously susceptible to extreme weather events, like farming and agriculture. They also receive much less government and community support for recovery. The result: the impact of a storm, flood, drought or earthquake is more than twice as significant for poor people than anyone else.
For example, when unprecedented floods affected Mumbai in 2005, poor people lost 60 percent more than their richer neighbors—and when poor people lose the little they have, there are immediate and sometimes irreversible consequences for their health.
In Ecuador, poor children exposed in utero to El Niño flooding in 1997-1998 were found to have relatively lower birthweights, shorter statures, and impaired cognitive abilities.
Proposing a new measure for assessing disaster-related damages—one that factors in the unequal burden on the poor—Unbreakable shows that natural disasters currently cost the global economy $520 billion (60 percent more than is usually reported) and force some 26 million people into poverty every year.
However, Governments can prevent millions of people from falling into extreme poverty by enacting measures that better protect the poor from natural disasters.
The report proposes a “resilience policy” package that would help poor people cope with the consequences of adverse weather and other extreme natural events. This includes early warning systems, improved access to personal banking, insurance policies, and social protection systems (like cash transfers and public works programs) that could help people better respond to and recover from shocks.
Unbreakable also calls on governments to make critical investments in infrastructure, dikes, and other means of controlling water levels, and develop appropriate land-use policies and building regulations. These efforts must be specifically targeted to protect the poorest and most vulnerable citizens, not just those with higher-value assets.
The report assesses the expected benefits from these policies in 117 countries. If Angola, for example, were to introduce scalable safety nets to cover its poorest citizens, the government would see gains equaling $160 million a year. Globally, these measures combined would help countries and communities save $100 billion a year and reduce the overall impact of disasters on well-being by 20 percent.
“Countries are enduring a growing number of unexpected shocks as a result of climate change,” said Stephane Hallegatte, a GFDRR lead economist and lead author of the report. “Poor people need social and financial protection from disasters that cannot be avoided. With risk policies in place that we know to be effective, we have the opportunity to prevent millions of people from falling into poverty.”
* Access the report:
# Drought is among the most devastating of natural hazards – crippling food production, depleting pastures, disrupting markets, and, at its most extreme, causing widespread human and animal deaths. Droughts can also lead to increased migration from rural to urban areas, placing additional pressures on declining food production. Herders are often forced to seek alternative sources of food and water for their animals, which can create conflict between pastoral and farming communities.
In recent years, droughts have resulted in some high-profile humanitarian disasters – including the crises in the Horn of Africa (2011) and the Sahel (2012) regions, which threatened the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. In 2015-16 El Nino drought conditions impacted over 50-100 million people across the world, with El Nino weather events predicted to double in frequency at 1.5C warming in the coming years. The greater frequency of droughts and more erratic nature of rains in many countries, has meant that droughts have an increasingly destructive impact on at-risk populations.

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