Special Initiatives & Emergency Response

Helping the Red Cross stop disasters from becoming catastrophes

(Photo: Red Cross/Uganda 2015)

Prevention is better than cure. We all know that, right? For example, it is better to quit smoking than to treat lung disease. We use seat belts, helmets and life jackets to prevent injury and death. The list goes on. We know that waiting to step in until after a problem has arisen can make the problem much more difficult and expensive to solve. Even worse than that, we might not be able to solve it at all. We could be just…too late.

So why do we often step in after a disaster has struck? Why wait to act until it’s already too late to stop people’s suffering?

As climate-related events, such as floods and droughts, are becoming more frequent and extreme, they are also becoming more predictable. That means that aid agencies can step in before some disasters happen, but they need funding to be able to do so.

With a grant of over €10 million from the IKEA Foundation, the Red Cross is implementing an early-warning, early-action system in Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya.

Using local and global weather data to predict where and when climate-related disasters will occur, the Red Cross is helping communities be better prepared, so disasters aren’t as catastrophic as they could otherwise be.

The Red Cross is working with local organisations and vulnerable communities to make sure the communities themselves are in control of how they will prepare for a coming disaster. This way communities can prioritise the right solutions and, using cash that the Red Cross provides can implement their plans. For example, they may decide to buy drought-resistant seeds or get a tractor so they can harvest their crops before the disaster strikes.

Not only is this way of supporting vulnerable communities up to seven times more cost-effective, but—most importantly—it saves lives and prevents unnecessary suffering.

Uganda Red Cross Secretary General Robert Kwesiga explains: By using forecasts we are now intervening even earlier, before receiving reports of disasters. With such a timely disbursal, we hope to avoid a potential catastrophe before it even happens, supporting people to continue working and going to school.”

Get involved

And you too can be a part of the prevention!

Many of the rural communities in these countries are unmapped. No matter where you live in the world, you can download the MapSwipe app and receive instructions on how to map rural areas, helping the Red Cross respond even more quickly when they see a disaster coming.

People are suffering unnecessarily because of the way we currently respond to these catastrophes. But together we can dare to do things differently!

On World Humanitarian Day, we want to thank all our partners who put themselves first to help others in need.  Today, we also are announcing a €3 million grant to the Start Network, a group of over 40 humanitarian organisations working together to transform the way the humanitarian sector helps people prepare for, respond to and recover from crises in their own communities.

Find out more about our emergency work

Read about how we help communities adapt to and overcome climate change