Red Cross says Changing Climate Worsens Disasters

  • Posted on: 26 January 2008
  • By: Bryan Schaaf

According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Climate change is making it harder for many people to access clean water and food, and widening the spread of infectious diseases, which include malaria and its dangerous cousin dengue fever.  If the past few years have become the new normal, we need to do a better job of adapting. This means preventing, rather than just responding to disasters.


What is the IFRC?  Almost every country has either a national chapter of the Red Cross or Red Crescent, and for Israel, the Red Crystal.  Of course, the United States has the American Red Cross.  The national chapters are represented by the IFRC in Geneva.   There is also the International Committee of the Red Cross - think of them as a global body of responders.  The neutrality of the ICRC allows it to go where other organizations cannot go - prisons, conflict zones, etc.  In this blog, we focus on the IFRC and the 186 national chapters that it represents at present.  


IFRC is asking donors for $292 million per year for 2008 and 2009 to help communities prepare for threats posed by global warming. Health care and disaster management make up 75% of this appeal.  



Response is not enough and we know this.  Selling this idea to a broad base of public and private donors can be difficult.  Take the United States - a very generous country when it comes to philanthropy.  Americans open their hearts and wallets when a disaster occurs, be it the Asian Tsunami or Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. 



People tend to be less generous when it comes to raising funds for the human and physical infrastructure needed to prevent, or at least mitigate, natural disasters.  Changing weather patterns, rainfall, and  temperature need to be taken into account.



By responding to disaster after disaster, without providing adequate planning and resources for prevention, we are in effect, playing "natural disaster whack a mole."   Our philanthropic effots must be strategic.  The non governmental and international organizations should find ways to communicate with public and private donors about prevention and mitigation that resonate.   The humanitarian, economic, and social consequences of global warming affect us now, some would argue more with each year.



I will be curious to see the extent to which the IFRC is funded.   If the appeal is fully met, it may be an indication that we have begun to wake up to the importance of prevention and mitigation.


Welcome your thoughts.



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