Humanitarian System Urgently Needs Reform to Save More Lives

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Fairfield, Conn. (August 19, 2015) — On World Humanitarian Day, Save the Children issued a stark warning that the current humanitarian system is not fit for purpose, putting the lives of vulnerable children and families at risk.

The children’s aid agency claims that as the frequency and severity of natural and man-made disasters continues to rise, major overhauls in the aid sector are needed to ensure adequate funding for, and improved efficiencies of, delivering support to those affected.

Save the Children CEO Carolyn Miles said: “Disasters like earthquakes and cyclones blighted the lives of 107 million people in 2014. At the same time, 60 million people have been forced from their homes because of conflict. This is the greatest movement of humanity since the Second World War. Yet the humanitarian system meant to help them is not fit for purpose and urgently needs reform.”

The aid agency says the humanitarian system needs four fundamental changes:

  • A greater proportion of funding ought to go to agencies directly involved in delivering aid, rather than UN agencies who sub-contract to operational partners. This reduces double-handling of humanitarian funds, and ultimately means greater efficiency on the ground.
  • More inventiveness in acquiring humanitarian funding by tapping the tens of billions from the corporate sector and from very wealthy individuals
  • Increased emphasis on what is known in the aid sector as Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) so aid agencies can prepare for and mitigate the impact of extreme weather events before they occur. For a relatively modest investment in DRR, billions of dollars and thousands of lives worldwide could be saved
  • The aid sector needs to become better innovators, pioneering new ways of solving humanitarian problems and reaching the most vulnerable people. For example, using mobile phone call data to chart the likely spread of a disease by tracking population flows, then deploying resources accordingly. While this has been successfully used in the past, it was not used following the outbreak of Ebola due to privacy concerns and other red tape.

“Our cause is not helped by the all-too familiar trend of slashing aid budgets. Globally, the gap between funds needed and funds provided continues to widen, meaning that aid agencies like Save the Children are asked to do a lot more with a lot less,” Miles said.

“The humanitarian system is stretched beyond capacity. There is a perfect storm brewing resulting from a system that is not fit for purpose, a lack of funding and a huge increase in man-made and so-called natural disasters,” Miles said.

World Humanitarian Day takes place on August 19, coinciding with the anniversary of the 2003 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq. The day was designated by the United Nations General Assembly as a time to recognise those who face danger and adversity in order to help others. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the spirit that inspires humanitarian work around the globe.

Save the Children gives children in the United States and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We invest in childhood — every day, in times of crisis and for our future. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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