Geneva/Brussels - 6 March, 2013. The disasters National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world respond to on a daily basis may be large or small, of many different causes, but the results are the same: people living in vulnerability are affected most and their lives and livelihoods are threatened. Without the assistance brought by the volunteers and staff of the National Societies, many of these people would be left without food, water, shelter or the means to survive and their health threatened by epidemics and diseases.
The majority of the disasters to which the Red Cross and Red Crescent respond go unnoticed. They may be too small to make the headlines but their effects are just as catastrophic for the people affected as the large-scale events. Immediate response by local actors, the National Society volunteers and staff, can make all the difference in saving lives and in supporting the communities’ ability to cope with and bounce back from the disaster. The investment is more beneficial still when linked to action which helps the communities themselves reduce the risk of disasters and which strengthens the preparedness of all local actors to respond early to the disasters they face.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Socieities (IFRC) and the European Union, the world’s leading provider of humanitarian funds, have been working in partnership for nearly 20 years to ensure people affected by disasters receive rapid and effective assistance and that their resilience to disasters is strengthened. Their joint action is currently being highlighted through a European communications campaign to raise awareness of silent disasters (http://www.ifrc.org/silentdisasters – http://ec.europa.eu/echo/news/2013/20130218_en.htm)
The European Commission's humanitarian aid department (ECHO) contributes annually to the IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF). The DREF is a pre-positioned fund which provides financial support to National Societies to provide immediate assistance to people affected by disasters. Under the 2013 agreement, which has just been signed by the two partners, ECHO has contributed 3 million Euros to the DREF, to be used to reimburse the Fund for grants it makes to National Societies in support of their response to small-scale disasters and health emergencies globally. The use of DREF by National Societies has been growing annually as the number of disasters and the people affected by them increases. In 2012, the DREF allocated EUR 14.2 million to support response to small-scale disasters, bringing assistance to 12 million people.
The flexibility allowed by a funding mechanism such as DREF is only possible thanks to the trust and support provided by donors such as ECHO who understand the importance of financing readiness – that is, providing fast and flexible funding for early action and emergency response to disasters by those who are closest.
Building the resilience of disaster-prone communities and supporting the capacity of local actors to respond to disasters is vital. The IFRC and ECHO are working together to ensure that vulnerable people are assisted and not forgotten, even if the disasters that affect them go unnoticed.