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Thursday, 27 December, 2001, 23:43 GMT
Red Cross launches global disaster fund
Villagers cross a river close to a collapsed bridge in Mozambique
The Red Cross helped in Mozambique during floods
The British Red Cross has launched a rapid response disaster fund to allow it to aid stricken areas as quickly as possible.

The new fund, which will cover all catastrophes rather than raising money for individual ones, has been established following the public response to the horrors of 11 September.

There are a lot of awful lot emergencies which don't make the headlines

David Alexander
Director of International Aid
It is hoped the new approach will enable the charity to respond to the increasing numbers of disasters as soon as they happen, at home or abroad.

A telephone survey of donors about the Disaster Fund suggested people were happy to give to the Red Cross without knowing where the money would be used, as they know and trust the organisation.

The Red Cross believes the fund, being launched on Friday, will help it spread aid to tragedies that do not make the headlines and increase its capacity to respond quickly.

David Alexander, the charity's director of International Aid, told the BBC: "There are a lot of awful lot emergencies which don't make the headlines.

"These are day in day out ones.

"The Red Cross by virtue of being just about everywhere in the world has to respond to all kinds of things, seasonal flooding in South East Asia, meningitis and cholera outbreaks in remote parts of Africa.

"They are not going to make the headlines."

Awareness increased

Jeremy Hughes, the British Red Cross's director of income generation, said: "What we are hearing is that the public wants to help, yet with the continuing and mounting disasters around the world, it is often difficult to decide which cause to give to.

"People know and trust the Red Cross and this fund is really saying: 'you can be sure we'll use your donation to bring help to those whose lives have been torn apart - leave it to us in the knowledge that we will spend your money wisely.'"

The organisation will spend its money on the most urgent disaster, ranging from the distribution of tents to flood victims in Mozambique to ensuring volunteers help emergency services during floods in the UK.

Members of the public gave an unprecedented response to the crisis in Afghanistan.

A man adds more sandbags to the steps of his home during floods in Upton upon Severn, western England, in November 2000
British Red Cross volunteers assisted during last year's floods

The images of suffering seen on television brought new levels of awareness and funds.

But it was the sheer scale of the public response to the series of disasters unfolding after 11 September that prompted the Red Cross to launch its new fund.

The fund will raise money all year round, rather than be limited to single appeals for individual disasters.

The BBC's David Loyn
"The Red Cross believe it is difficult for people to decide which cause to give to"
See also:

14 Sep 01 | UK
Offers of help flood in
18 Sep 01 | Americas
How to help the relief effort
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