Help prevent disaster rather than costly aid after, Islamic Aid urges UN

PUBLISHED: 00:01 01 October 2012

MP Rushanara Ali (left) on fact-finding mission to Kenya

MP Rushanara Ali (left) on fact-finding mission to Kenya

Rushanara Ali's office

A huge imbalance in disaster relief is costing lives and squandering scarce aid budgets.

Disaster: the real cost

Islamic Relief’s report is being launched with a fringe event today (Monday) at the Labour party conference with Rushanara Ali in a Debate with the relief charity and with Friends of the Earth. It is also being launched again next Monday at the Conservative party conference with government minister Alan Duncan.

The report points out:

• Disasters last year alone killed 27,000 people and cost $380 billion in economic losses

• financial costs of disaster relief double every 12 years

• The world spent 23 times as much on emergency relief in 2010 as it spent on disaster prevention

• It costs £400 for Islamic Relief to protect a family in Bangladesh from floods for five years by raising their land—less than the £440 emergency aid the same family would need in just one month if they lost everything in a major flood

• It costs £19 a month to prevent malnutrition by providing a family in Kenya with the seeds to cultivate and diesel to irrigate an acre of land—barely half the £34 it costs for food aid to the same family once malnutrition sets in.

These are the shock findings of an international relief organisation following a fact-finding mission to East Africa by Labour’s Shadow Overseas Development minister Rushanara Ali.

The Bethnal Green & Bow MP returned last week from Kenya to see some of the work by Islamic Relief.

The world spends 23 times as much on emergency relief as it spends on preventative risk reduction, the aid organisation says.

Its report published today (Monday) urges more resources to protect against increasing droughts and floods which would be more effective and much less costly than waiting to act until disaster strikes.

Rushanara told the Advertiser: “I met many people in Kenya struggling with the impact of changing weather patterns that have destroyed their traditionally nomadic way of life.

“I also saw the work being done to help tackle immediate problems like malnutrition and the work trying to build more long-term resilience by addressing chronic problems such as access to water, health care and new ways of producing food.”

Last year’s famine, caused by one of the worst droughts in 25 years, left 13 million in need of food, water and emergency health care, the MP pointed out.

Islamic Relief is working in places like Kenya and Somalia with famine relief and in Bangladesh on flood relief.

Its Head of Disaster Resilience in Bangladesh, Shahnawaz Ali, said: “We need to give poor countries a fighting chance against climate change by investing in things like drought-resistant crops, rebuilding flood-prone houses on higher ground and preserving food and seeds for when disaster strikes.

“That will save lives and money on emergency aid.”

The 44-page report challenges the UN, governments and aid agencies to rethink their priorities.

It calls for a global fund to be set up to reduce the risk of disasters with more prevention work.

The organisation’s UK Director, Jehangir Malik, said: “The time has come to establish a global fund for disaster risk reduction.

“We need to press the UN and governments to come up with a bold and binding international agreement to protect poor communities better.”

But he praised the British government for its work in disaster risk reduction which he says could lead the world in a stronger collective effort that saves lives and money.

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