[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 28 October, 2004, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
Red Cross slams 'misguided aid'
Rubble of destroyed building, Bam
The Red Cross says local rescue efforts in Bam saved many lives
Misguided relief work may be worsening the situation for disaster victims, the international Red Cross has warned.

Governments and aid agencies fail to listen to people on the front line, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says.

The result, its annual World Disasters Report claims, is the fuelling of the "disaster victim cliche", which portrays affected people as helpless.

The federation says aid agencies must do more to help people help themselves.

It's a myth that only Western governments and aid agencies know best
Red Cross spokeswoman Eva von Oelrich

Encouraging communities to use their own initiative before, during and after catastrophes is the key to reducing their impact, it argues.

While the number of people affected by disasters fell to 255 million in 2003, two and a half times lower than the previous year, the reported death toll leapt to three times that of 2002.

Almost 77,000 people died in 2003, compared to a decade-long average of 62,000.

The figures cover the victims of earthquakes, weather-related disaster, famine and plane crashes but exclude deaths due to war or disease.

Coffins at a funeral
Thousands died across Europe in 2003's summer heatwave

Red Cross spokeswoman Eva von Oelrich said: "It's a myth that only Western governments and aid agencies know best."

The high death toll for 2003 was in part down to the heatwave in Europe, which claimed up to 35,000 lives, about half of them in France.

Most of the rest died in the earthquake in Bam, Iran, in December 2003.

The organisation cites the earthquake, which killed more than 26,000 people and destroyed three-quarters of the city's buildings, as a prime example of how communities can help themselves.

Whereas 34 international rescue teams found 22 people alive, local Red Crescent volunteers saved nearly 160 lives.

Affected people are far more resourceful than we assume
Eva von Oelrich
Neighbours and volunteers from other provinces and local organisations saved hundreds more, the federation says.

Its report points out that local rescue workers with sniffer dogs could be trained and funded for a fraction of the cost of a Western team - and be on the scene faster.

Ms von Oelrich said: "I don't say that external aid is not needed. What I want to say is that there is a need for a balance.

"Disaster affected people often do more to help themselves than aid organisations do, so we need to build on it.

"Affected people are far more resourceful than we assume."

Longer-term relief efforts should be about equipping communities with the resilience to rebuild their lives rather than supplying aid and food handouts, the report concludes.

The Red Cross believes more support is needed

'Sustainable relief' is needed
14 Sep 04  |  Science/Nature
Iran lowers Bam earthquake toll
29 Mar 04  |  Middle East
Helping the people of Bam
09 Jan 04  |  Middle East
The politics of earthquakes
30 Dec 03  |  Middle East
French heat toll almost 15,000
25 Sep 03  |  Europe

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific