How climate change, urbanization are changing disaster aid

Thu Jan 26, 2012 6:14am EST
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By Katie Nguyen and Megan Rowling

LONDON (AlertNet) - Picture this: a terrible drought forces you to abandon your meager plot of farmland, so you migrate to a city where the jobs are, only to end up living in a slum regularly submerged by floods.

It's a scenario that's going to become more and more familiar in coming years as climate change and rapid urbanization play an ever-greater role in shaping humanitarian crises, according to an AlertNet poll of the world's biggest aid organizations.

To adapt to the new reality, aid agencies will need to invest more in disaster prevention and learn a trick or two from the private sector about how to make more efficient use of limited resources, the survey of 41 relief organizations shows.

"The rising trend in the number of disasters over the past five years shows no sign of slowing down," said Gareth Owen, humanitarian director at Save the Children UK.

"Year on year, we are responding more frequently and on a larger scale to increasing numbers of disasters."

Asked to rank the factors most likely to intensify humanitarian needs, 28 of 41 aid agencies put the risk of more frequent and destructive climate-related floods, droughts and storms at the top.

This was followed by mass displacement due to climate change and environmental damage, urbanization, high and volatile food prices, and the expectation of more failing states.

With needs expected to grow and national budgets squeezed by the global financial crisis, some rich donor states are pressing the charities they fund to boost value for money in relief efforts.   Continued...

<p>A girl walks in a World Food Programme (WFP) hot-food distribution centre in Mogadishu August 4, 2011, in this handout released by the African Union-United Nations Information Support Team to Reuters on August 5, 2011. REUTERS/African Union-United Nations Information Support Team/Stuart Price/Handout</p>