Thursday, March 22, 2012

News Flash: The Way Foreign Aid Is Spent Does Not Make Sense

We have barely begun this century, but we have gone well over a trillion dollars in economic losses due to disasters.  This is according to a new report by Development Initiatives, an independent organization that is working to end poverty. They want to do this by getting information about poverty and making it understandable by ordinary people. They believe that once poor people and the people working to help them understand what is going on they can be more effective.

The new report is about what money for disaster risk reduction is used for. They basically say, how the money is being used, does not make sense. 

Here is how the woman in charge of disaster risk reduction for the UN put it:

 GENEVA, 20 March 2012 - The UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström, today launched a new report by Development Initiatives which highlights major discrepancies in the way that donors allocate funding for disaster risk reduction despite economic losses of over one trillion dollars from disasters so far this century. 

Ms. Wahlström said: "This report is a very timely examination of funding for disaster risk reduction when it is now clear that we have broken through the trillion dollar ceiling for economic losses so far this century. As of the end of 2011 we can conservatively state that disasters so far this century have cost over $1,380 billion" 

Jan Kellett, a Programme Leader with Development Initiatives and co-author of the report, said: "at a time when humanitarian needs are at an historic high, and donors are under considerable pressure to spend less and prioritise value for money, a reassessment of spending is imperative. This report reveals the critical need for a revised financing model which places greater emphasis upon the reduction of risk, based on comprehensive assessments of need and appropriate prioritisation of funding, as well as improvements in the quality of reporting".

That was the end of the UN comments and those from Development Initiatives. If Development Initiatives wants to make things easier for poor people, I think they need to hire an interpreter for the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström. She may be speaking English, but so what? That does not mean that what she says is going to be understandable to a lot of the people most affected by what she says.

I am a word geek. Even I have to think a bit to figure out what Margareta Wahlstrom said above. This does not look well for poor people, who are most affected by disasters most of the time. The above report from Development Initiatives says that 80% of the people who die in most disasters are poor people. 

Last year (2011) apparently was an exception to the most disaster deaths being among poor people. Development Initiatives said that last year most of the people who died were middle income people instead of poor. They explained where the deaths happened last year, on their site:

I would like to see disaster aid give us some better results. It seems to make sense to spend more to keep people from getting killed and made even poorer in disasters. It does not seem to make sense to randomly throw money at disasters and expect things to get better. The Development Initiatives report said that only about 1% of the development aid to poor countries goes to disaster risk reduction. That does not make good sense. Surely we can do better than that.

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