4.4. Funding disaster preparedness, risk reduction and humanitarian aid

  • Share

In a perfect world, a disaster-affected country would be able to cover the cost of the immediate response to the health impact of an emergency or crisis, and indeed we have witnessed this happening in a number of countries in which there is either a well-organized culture of preparedness and planning or where the emergency situation remains within the scope of what was foreseen. There are, however, cases where the sheer magnitude of the event surpasses the coping capacity of even the most developed or well-prepared countries to mount an adequate response to the immediate health needs (without even taking into consideration the long-term challenges related to rehabilitation and reconstruction). The most notable recent examples of the imperative need for international humanitarian aid are the earthquake in Haiti (2010) and the tsunami in South Asia (2004).

Humanitarian agencies generally fall into several categories-- governments, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations. Authorities in disaster-affected countries should be aware of the resources, channels of communication, and constraints of these agencies.

  • Agencies can make cash grants, donate supplies, provide technical assistance, furnish food, or make loans. Some specialize in only one of these areas, while others have a more general mandate. It is essential to understand these resources to avoid requesting cash from an agency that provides only in-kind assistance, or supplies from an agency that specializes in technical cooperation.
  • Non-governmental organizations vary considerably in their approach to humanitarian assistance and the health contributions they can make. Larger, experienced agencies and those already engaged in development work in the affected country tend to have a better understanding of the nature of the problems encountered.
  • Funding agencies may require the declaration of a state of emergency by the affected country or their own representative or a formal request from the government before they can respond. A request made to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is regarded as a request to the entire U.N. system.
  • Agencies may require first-hand or conclusive evidence of the need for relief before making expenditures or conducting fund raising. Many are increasingly relying on their own local experts, NGOs, or others regarding the validity of needs and are less likely to blindly accept official information.
  • Some funding agencies are willing to commit funds for specific projects in the early stage of an emergency, before a thorough assessment of health sector priorities has been initiated. The health sector must, therefore, prepare and submit preliminary cost estimates for immediate emergency humanitarian assistance needs as soon as possible.

It is important to note that many agencies that provide funding for humanitarian operations in the wake of a disaster also support emergency preparedness and disaster risk reduction activities. Given the interest from humanitarian actors – multilateral and bilateral alike – in disaster preparedness and risk reduction, much of the work undertaken in recent years has been financed from humanitarian sources.