2005: A year of disasters | Humanitarian Aid

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2005 has been a year of disasters. The international response has been characterized by televised suffering of the survivors of South Asia’s earthquake and the tsunami, driving great generosity. But it has also been characterized by the continuing failure of governments to provide timely, sufficient aid to those, largely in Sub Saharan Africa, who suffer equally but less visibly.
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   2005: Year of Disasters ‘ We tried to believe in our hearts that we’d harvest something…that the rains would start again, but the dry spell continued and there was no rain.’ Davis Mulomba, Malawian farmer, interview with Oxfam staff, September 05   2005 has been a year of disasters. The international response has been characterized by televised suffering of the survivors of South Asia’s earthquake and the tsunami, driving great generosity. But it has also been characterised by the continuing failure of governments to provide timely, sufficient aid to those, largely in Sub Saharan Africa, who suffer equally but less visibly. 1. The scale of the humanitarian challenge The earthquake that struck South Asia on October 8 th  may have killed more than 30,000 people. But it was only the latest in a series of natural and man-made catastrophes that have affected tens of millions of people in the last twelve months. During 2005 the world has experienced some of the worst natural disasters ever. i  The Asian Tsunami killed a staggering 224,495 people. Hurricanes Stan (in Central  America) and Katrina killed many fewer people but the resultant floods and mudslides affected around 2 million and 500,000 people respectively. ii  Meanwhile in the Sahel region of western Africa, a terrible and largely avoidable food crisis has unfolded, afflicting around 3.6 million people in Niger alone. A similar food crisis is now emerging in southern Africa, where 10 -12 million people are facing severe food shortages. In the most recent crisis, the South Asia earthquake, around 4 million may have been affected and the aid effort is only just beginning. Some of these disasters are more natural than others. In almost all, a natural phenomenon is turned into a disaster by its victims’ deep, entrenched poverty. Meanwhile, wars continue to kill on a massive scale. In Darfur, Sudan, around 200,000 people have died from the violent conflict that erupted in early 2003; and persistent insecurity still displaces 2.3 million people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and up to 2 million in Northern Uganda.  Alongside these high profile crises, 2005 has seen many other natural disasters and conflict-related emergencies that may never reach our television screens despite the terrible suffering they cause. Over the last decade the number s of disasters, and the numbers of people affected by disasters, has been climbing: iii   ã   The average annual number of disasters reported during 2000-04 was 55% higher than during 1995-99. With 719 reported disasters, 2004 was the third worst year of the decade (1994-2004). iv   ã   During 2000-2004 disasters affected one third more people than during 1995-1999. v   ã   Over the same period the numbers of people affected by disasters in countries of low human development doubled, with Africa showing the greatest increase. vi  To many of these crises – and others caused by armed conflicts – the international 2005: Year of Disasters , Oxfam Briefing Paper, October 2005 1  humanitarian response has been inadequate. This briefing surveys some of the major crises in 2005 and the response to them. It describes an uneven, often late and sometimes inefficient international humanitarian performance that has been undermined by inadequate funding for the UN’s vital appeals. It also recommends an important concrete step – the upgrading of the existing UN Central Emergency Revolving Fund (CERF) to a new Central Emergency Response  Fund - that could help improve the global humanitarian response, and help prevent avoidable suffering and death. Total number of reported disasters by year (1995 to 2004) 1002003004005006007008001995199619971998199920002001200220032004   Source: EM-DAT, University of Louvain, Belgium 2. Some of The Disasters Asian Tsunami Date:    December 26 th  2004 Description:  A massive tsunami hit the coastlines of Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India killing, injuring and displacing hundreds of thousands of people and flattening villages and towns. Nos killed  : 224,495 vii Nos affected  : 2.4 million people viii   Funding of UN 2005 a p peal: 83 % of the US$1.3 B requested by the UN was committed as of 11th October 2005. ix  Total donor pledges, including those outside the appeal, totaled an estimated $3.8 billion by May 2005– equivalent to half the funds for all emergencies, everywhere in 2003. x   Funding received in first month of UN Flash appeal:   approximately 95% of requirements xi Rating ã   Total needs: Exceeded ã   Speed of response: Fast Hurricane Stan, Central America Date:  October 4 th  2005 Description: Hurricane Stan hit several countries in Central America causing widespread flooding and landslides in Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mexico, Belize and Haiti Nos killed:   Guatemala 652 and 557 missing; Mexico 15; Nicaragua 3. xii Numbers affected  : Guatemala 163,609; Mexico 1.9 million; Nicaragua 1,407 xiii Funding of UN 2005 Flash Appeal for Guatemala:  1% of US$21,670,000 requested as of 11 th  October 2005 xiv Rating ã   Total needs: too early to say ã   Speed: too early to say 2005: Year of Disasters , Oxfam Briefing Paper, October 2005 2    South Asia Earthquake Date: 8 th  October 2005 Description:  An earthquake measuring at least 7.6 hit South Asia. Worse affected areas are Kashmir and Pakistan, but the quake also hit north India and Afghanistan Nos killed : 0ver 22,288 people have lost their lives in Pakistan. xv  Plus 1,280 dead and 14 missing in India, and one dead in Afghanistan. xvi Nos affected  – 4 million affected and 50,575 reported injured in Pakistan, with numbers expected to rise further. xvii . Funding of UN 2005 Flash Appeal:  2% of the US$271,776,000 requested as of October 11 th  2005 xviii Rating ã   Total needs: too early to say ã   Speed: too early to say Niger Date :   first warnings November 2004. Crisis broke in Summer 2005. Description :   Food crisis Numbers killed  : no data, feared to be very high Numbers affected  : up to 3.6 million xix Funding of UN 2005 flash appea  l: 53% of the US $ 81,393,876 requested was received by October 2005 Funding received in first month of UN appeal  : approximately 25% of requirements xx Rating: ã   Total needs: still unmet ã   Speed of response: too slow Southern Africa Date:  imminent without urgent action, first warning sounded in March 2005 Description : possible food crisis unfolding now Nos killed:  no data Nos affected:  between 10 and 12 million people could face severe food shortages across southern Africa, and signs of increased admissions of children with severe malnutrition. xxi Funding of UN 2005 flash appeal for Malawi: 32% of US$87,760,869 requested by UN flash appeal as of October 2005. xxii Funding received in first month of UN appeal for Malawi: 30% of requirements. xxiii Rating: ã   Total needs: unmet ã   Speed of response: too slow Darfur, Sudan Date: Since 2003  Description:  The conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan has led to the deaths of huge numbers of people, caused many to flee their homes to live in temporary camps, and involved many abuses of human rights  Nos killed: 200,000 Nos affected: 1.8 million displaced  Funding of UN 2005 appeal: 46% of US$1,866,325,654 requested for Sudan as of October 12 th   xxiv Rating Total needs: unmet Speed of response: slow Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Date : since 1998 2005: Year of Disasters , Oxfam Briefing Paper, October 2005 3  Description: The humanitarian crisis in the DRC has been one of the worst in the world. A long term and complex conflict has led to appalling levels of hunger, disease, death, displacement, and countless abuses of human rights. Nos killed : an estimated 3.8 million people have lost their lives in the since 1997. xxv   Nos affected : 2.3 million displaced within DRC, plus half a million refugees returning from Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi. xxvi Funding of UN 2005 appeal: 53% of US$194,109,117 requested as of October 2005 xxvii Overall rating: ã   Total needs: seriously unmet ã   Speed of response: slow  3. The Humanitarian Response xxviii  The sheer size and scale of disasters this year demands a commensurate humanitarian response. All donor governments share the responsibility to ensure humanitarian aid is provided to all those who need it. But the above brief survey of some of the year’s worst humanitarian emergencies exposes major and life-threatening shortcomings. While humanitarian assistance has increased in recent years, thanks to the efforts of some donors, it still is failing too many people. Humanitarian assistance still does not cover all needs, often arrives too late, and is too often determined more by media profile or political criteria than humanitarian need, condemning thousands of people to unnecessary suffering and death. Humanitarian aid often arrives late. Even if the majority of funds are eventually provided, they often arrive too late to prevent avoidable suffering and death. The recent food crisis in Niger was predicted months before it hit the headlines, and many deaths could have been prevented if funding had been made available at that time. It took television pictures of starving children in July 2005 to prompt adequate funds by which time the shortage had turned into a crisis. The Niger crisis received around 22% and Malawi around 30 % of requested funds in the first month of the UN appeal. More widely, although UN flash appeals (for rapid onset natural disasters or sudden deteriorations in existing humanitarian crises) are put out within days, most of them receive less than 30 % of requested funds in the first month. xxix  In many of these crises, time costs lives. Humanitarian aid is too often determined more by media profile or political criteria than humanitarian need. Massive media coverage helped ensure that the Tsunami appeal received US $3.8 billion in pledges for humanitarian assistance by May 2005 – roughly half the funds for all emergencies everywhere in 2003. In contrast many other humanitarian emergencies continued to suffer severe shortages of funding. Worldwide media coverage has driven a generous initial response to South Asia’s earthquake. But as international television crews are already departing, a week after the quake, Oxfam staff on the ground ask how long donor governments’ generosity will continue. The percentage of funds received by UN appeals is one indicator of whether global humanitarian needs are being met. Although far from perfect, there is currently no better information publicly available that compares humanitarian aid from one crisis to another. (Of course, donors also give bilaterally to humanitarian crises, and the UN data does not capture this). ã   In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), 2.3 million people have been displaced by the conflict and 3.8 million have lost their lives since 1997. Yet just 53% of the US$194,109,117 requested by the UN for the DRC had been received as of 12 th  October 2005. ã   Similarly in Darfur where an estimated 200,000 people have been killed and 1.8 million displaced by the conflict, just 46% of US$1,866,325,654 requested by the 2005: Year of Disasters , Oxfam Briefing Paper, October 2005 4
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