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Discrimination in Disasters: World Disaster Report

Fact and Figures on Discrimination (PDF)
Facts and Figures on Disasters


11 December 2007


Tackling Discrimination in Disasters: World Disaster Report Released

This year’s annual World Disasters Report, launched today by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), examines the issue of discrimination in disasters. It looks at which groups are discriminated against and why, how discrimination manifests itself, and how it increases vulnerability.

Among the groups identified as often discriminated against – often unintentionally, the Report lists the elderly, people with disabilities, certain minorities and women - people whose views are seldom sought out or heard. The problem is sometimes exacerbated by the fact that discriminatory attitudes are formed and fostered inside their own communities or families.

The Report makes recommendations on how to ensure that the needs of marginalised and vulnerable populations are taken into account in disaster preparedness programmes, that these groups receive timely and adequate assistance during emergencies, and that they are included in recovery activities after a disaster.

It also points to the responsibility of aid agencies and governments to identify and address discriminatory attitudes and procedures. Race, colour, gender, language, religion, politics, opinion, national or social origin, economic condition and birth are just some of the causes of discrimination that can compromise certain groups’ access to aid.

“While in a New Zealand context, our exposure to large scale disasters has been thankfully limited, we must continue to work towards preparing our communities to withstand and cope with disasters, and in particular, continue to prepare to assist the most vulnerable amongst us for such situations,” says David Neal, New Zealand Red Cross’ National Disaster Management Manager.

“Of particular concern to New Zealand Red Cross is the elderly, who are most vulnerable in times of disaster, and potentially the most likely to face discrimination in their ability to recover from disaster and where possible, regain their former quality of life.”

Among the solutions proposed to tackle discrimination, this year’s Report calls for a clear definition of marginalisation and vulnerability, as well as more information on the impact of discrimination, and on the vital need to involve marginalised and vulnerable groups in the design and implementation of emergency and developmental aid programmes.

New Zealand Red Cross works closely with the IFRC to build capacity in the community to prepare for and cope with disaster situations. “Our internationally benchmarked first aid training, both our commercial arm and the community programmes we provide, along with our specialised disaster preparedness training packages are vitally important,” says David Neal.

“We’re working closely with the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management to restructure our emergency management capability. Our New Zealand Red Cross emergency response teams, staffed by volunteers, will increase in number, and be trained and equipped to a high level throughout the country. Our focus will be to provide immediate support and assistance to vulnerable people caught up in disaster. We have developed a stable of emergency related capabilities that will be offered to each community to best meet their emergency management needs.”

The World Disasters Report also includes a section on disaster statistics and some analysis of global trends, supplied by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, based at the Catholic University of Louvain, in Belgium. Although the comparison between 2006 and 2005 is relatively good, the trends over the past ten years show a dramatic increase in the number of reported disasters and deaths.

This trend is confirmed by the IFRC’s own statistics. For example, between 2004 and 2006, the number of disasters that Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies responded to increased by more than 70%. Most of them were caused by floods and other meteorological events. As of 10 October 2007, the IFRC had already recorded 410 disasters, 56% of which were weather related, which is consistent with the trend of rising numbers of climate change-related disasters.


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