Red Cross drive on disaster reduction

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 October, 2007, 12:00am

Hong Kong Red Cross will triple its spending on disaster reduction programmes both locally and overseas, especially for catastrophes related to climate change.

Nearly HK$40 million has been earmarked to launch projects in Hong Kong, the mainland, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Maldives for the next three years.

This is more than three times the HK$9.7 million allocated in the past three years, reflecting an increasing trend towards attaching more importance to helping local communities prepare for disasters instead of emergency relief for immediate damage and casualties.

Relief agencies see the trend as desirable in view of the expected rise in the number of disasters brought about by climate change.

Enkas Chau Ping-hay, head of the Red Cross' international relief service, said that while donors were quick in responding to appeals, their awareness and understanding of disaster reduction and prevention could be improved.

'While emergency relief for floods on the mainland might cost 300 yuan per person, the same amount, if spent on prevention, could help them cope with the disasters for five to 10 years,' he said.

Disaster prevention projects included building evacuation shelters, protection of soil and river banks from floods and drinking water sanitation.

Mr Chau said there was so far no specific donation channel for disaster prevention projects and most of the funding came from the surplus of previous donations for emergency relief such as the 2004 tsunami.

To highlight the importance of disaster reduction, the United Nations and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies will jointly launch a global alliance on disaster risk reduction tomorrow. The alliance was expected to roll out a number of initiatives to promote disaster prevention.

According to the International Red Cross, the number of appeals for emergency relief launched in the past seven years had already surpassed the number in the decade from 1990 to 1999 by 18 per cent. The number of climate disaster related appeals also increased by 22 per cent to 147 during the same period.

Climate-related victims

The number of people expected to be affected by climate-related disasters as a result of global warming: 2b

The number of people who die in climate-related disasters each year, mostly in Southeast Asia, South America and Africa: 14,000