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New report launches: saving lives today, investing for tomorrow

13 October 2016

Investing in risk reduction saves both lives and money. This is the important message of a Red Cross report set to launch on 14 October: World Disasters Report 2016 – Resilience: Saving lives today, investing for tomorrow.

The World Disasters Report is published annually by our partner the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

This year’s report focuses on resilience, a word with many different definitions. In this case, it refers to people’s ability “to anticipate, reduce the impact of, cope with and recover from the effects of shocks and stresses without compromising their long-term prospects”.

Why does this work?

Currently, around two-thirds of disaster spending occurs after an emergency.

Yet it is more effective to invest in helping communities to cope before a crisis. This includes, for example, building raised shelters to use during cyclones, or training people to build tremor-resistant houses in areas at risk from earthquakes.

There is already evidence that this works. In 2015, 22,773 people died in disasters such as floods, typhoons, earthquakes and other crises worldwide.

While this is still a tragedy, it is much lower than the annual average of 76,424 deaths that we have seen over the last ten years. This is largely down to successfully preparing for disasters and using early warning systems.

What needs to be done?

Humanitarian needs are growing.

Last year, 65.3 million people had to flee their homes. Sometimes they stayed within their own countries and sometimes they crossed international borders. Wherever they are, most need some form of humanitarian aid.

Nearly 99 million people were affected by disasters including earthquakes, droughts and cyclones. Climate change played a role: 2015 was the hottest year on record.

Yet current funding for disaster risk reduction still lags behind the needs.

The report argues that to use limited resources most effectively, humanitarian organisations such as the Red Cross must work directly with local communities.

Together with local people, groups, businesses and governments, we can build partnerships that use communities’ knowledge and skills.

These can then create effective, long-term efforts that improve safety and well-being before, during and after disasters.