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Thursday, 28 June, 2001, 03:04 GMT 04:04 UK
Disaster aid 'misguided'
A building collapses after the earthquake in Turkey
Thousands were killed in Turkey's earthquake
By Developing World correspondent David Loyn

The world is failing to cope adequately with the effects of major disasters, according to a new report.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies' annual assessment of disasters shows that aid efforts are often media-driven and do not benefit the local community or make them resilient to further disasters.

Orissa floods
Disasters like Orissa hurt the poor hardest
The report identifies poverty as a major factor in most disasters and stresses that aid efforts must address this economic stalemate if they are to prevent disasters in the future.

In East Timor, one case highlighted by the International Red Cross report, $10m a month is spent to support the foreign aid programme, but nearly all of it goes into the pockets of foreign businesses.

This image of aid workers living in a sealed box, not consulting the local community, permeates the report.

The International Red Cross claims that good planning to build cyclone shelters in Orissa in India saved 40,000 lives but, in contrast, in Venezuela, thousands were living in very bad conditions in squalid refugee camps after the initial aid programmes had moved on.

There is also criticism of the use of volunteers, who may often end up needing aid themselves.

Hurricane Mitch
Victims of Hurricane Mitch waited nearly a week for aid
In the Turkish earthquake, the report says that volunteers created a 50-kilometre traffic jam, which blocked the attempts of professional helpers to get to the scene.

Among proposed solutions include the long-term demand that the developed world should take the threats to the environment seriously and alleviate climate change, which could have a huge effect on low-lying poor countries like Bangladesh.

But in the short term, the report issues a call to listen more to people most affected by disasters.

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See also:

02 Mar 00 | Africa
Mozambique: How you can help
28 Aug 99 | World
Nature's lethal weapons
07 Dec 99 | South Asia
Orissa: After the storm - Full coverage
08 Mar 99 | Hurricane Mitch
Special Report: Hurricane Mitch
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