In 2013, a staggering number of people struggled to cope with the impact of conflict and natural disaster. The Syria conflict left 9.3 million people in need of urgent assistance, while Typhoon Haiyan killed nearly 6,000 people and destroyed over a million homes.
Better preparedness measures deployed by the international community mean that these figures are on the decrease – but with floods, hurricanes, drought and conflict still claiming close to 10 million lives, more remains to be done.
The UK Department for International Development (DFID) is joining forces with the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF as part of a disasters and emergencies preparedness programme, in a push to step up emergency preparedness - and limit the damage caused as a result of worldwide crises.
With a £20 million investment from DFID, WFP and UNICEF will scale up their disaster planning in 23 high-risk countries, where 17 million people are at risk from disasters, including 14 million women and children.
"Stretched to breaking point"
“There is a growing danger that while some countries are graduating from aid, others will be left behind,” said UK International Development Secretary Justine Greening when the plan was announced in April.
“The humanitarian system is already stretched to breaking point and we are facing ever more demands on the system, as we deal with the effects of a changing climate, growing population, conflict and extremism."
A team effort
Preparing for emergencies has always been a crucial part of WFP’s work but by partnering with other organisations and integrating efforts, greater protection will be provided to countries which have been significantly affected by natural and man-made disasters in the past - specifically Afghanistan, Chad, Indonesia, Madagascar, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine and the Philippines.
The humanitarian preparedness strengthening programme will focus on a number of core strategies including the pre-positioning of relief items and support equipment, the provision of expert training, simulation drills and monitoring of countries susceptible to disaster. WFP will also invest in innovative technology that can monitor and track disasters and provide more detailed risk analysis in disaster-prone regions.
It is widely recognised that being prepared for a disaster increases the effectiveness of humanitarian response and saves lives. For example, Bangladesh reduced casualties from 2 very comparable cyclones from 500,000 in 1972 to 3,400 in 2008.
It also makes economic sense –every $1 invested in reducing the risk of disasters is saved several times in terms of emergency response and reconstruction.
It may not be possible to prevent a disaster altogether, but by working with communities and humanitarian agencies to prepare, WFP can greatly reduce the negative effects of a disaster, saving lives and livelihoods.