Islamic Relief, an international relief and development charity, on October 1 called on the United Nations, governments and other aid agencies to establish a fund to prevent climate change disasters like floods and droughts.
In a new report, researched in association with the New Economics Foundation (nef), the agency found that prevention was both more effective and less costly than providing emergency relief after disaster strikes.
However, the international community spends as much as 23 times more (depending on the country) on emergency disaster relief than on prevention, and with climate-related disasters on the rise, this leads to unnecessary loss of life and the squandering of aid budgets, says the report, “Feeling the Heat.”
“As climate change bites, natural disasters such as floods, drought and tropical storms are becoming more frequent and severe. The people paying the heaviest price are the world’s poorest communities, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia,” it adds.
In the last decade, many areas have seen increased rain and higher temperatures, while large storms have almost doubled, leaving poor communities the most affected due to their “modest dwellings.”
The financial costs associated with emergency relief are doubling every 12 years. However, for every dollar spent on reducing risk associated with climate-related disaster, there can be a $15 USD savings in disaster relief, the report finds.
“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,” says Shahnawaz Ali, Head of Climate Change and Disaster Resilience for Islamic Relief Bangladesh.
“If we do that we will not only save lives but save a lot of money on emergency aid.”
Islamic Relief also recommends that UN member states be required to establish disaster risk reduction plans; that UN agencies be fully aware of local contexts and best practices that improve project effectiveness; and that donor governments reject aid cuts and meet their commitments, change the current imbalance of aid funding to increase funds directed toward disaster prevention, and improve coordination among donors.
The report also recommends that at-risk nations draw on UN and World Bank expertise and spend aid wisely. For aid agencies, it suggests pressing donors to prioritize disaster risk reduction, changing their balance of spending to reflect the importance of prevention, and educating the public.