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Red Cross World Disasters Report

Red Cross World Disasters Report underlines that information saves lives

Timely information can be just important as food, water and shelter in saving lives in a disaster, according to this year’s World Disasters Report 2005.

The report, which was released today by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, focuses on the way accurate, timely information can save lives and reduce suffering in disasters.

Andrew Weeks, Director General of New Zealand Red Cross, says that early warning is the most obvious way that information can help save lives.

“During the cyclone season in the Pacific earlier this year, New Zealand Red Cross helped other Pacific national societies to successfully alert their populations of approaching storms, and many lives were saved. The key to this success was putting people, and not only technology, at the centre of warning systems,” Mr Weeks says.

The Report also considers the quality of communication that takes place between those involved in disasters and what impact this information has on the people caught up in a crisis.

The unprecedented response to the South Asia tsunami provides an excellent example to learn from, Mr Weeks says.

“After the tsunami, over 200 humanitarian organisations offered their aid, and the enormous, chaotic international response succeeded in getting aid to most survivors. However information sharing between agencies and consultation with affected people can be improved, and the Red Cross is addressing this through constant reporting and evaluation,” Mr Weeks says.

The Report underlines that the right kind of information leads to a much deeper understanding of people’s needs and the best ways to meet those needs.

Jerry Talbot , the kiwi head of delegation for the Red Cross in the Maldives , says that consultation with affected communities is integral to the rebuilding process.

As well as consulting with communities and families about where they want to live, the Red Cross also gives those affected considerable input into the planning of new houses and infrastructure.

“It’s critical that people move voluntarily. We don’t want to build houses that will one day be empty. We have to build them in the right place, we have to make sure people will stay,” Mr Talbot says.

The Report also highlights the importance of recognising information as a form of disaster response in its own right.

“Far from the media spotlight, numerous chronic crises silently steal lives and livelihoods. The Sahel region is suffering near-famine, triggered by drought and locusts with 9 million people at risk by mid-2005,” Mr Weeks says.

“The record of the international aid community is mixed. Information can save lives. But there are gaps in the way we gather and share this powerful resource. Fortunately, this year’s Report reveals that there is much good practice on which to build,” he says.

The Report provides evidence to show that information is as valuable as food, water or shelter for communities affected by disaster. The importance of sharing information, both among aid agencies, but also with the local communities and civil societies affected by a disaster is underlined.

The World Disasters Report 2005: Focus on Information is available at www.ifrc.org/publicat from October 5th 2005

Ends

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