A country's ability to withstand shocks determines whether a natural hazard turns into a disaster. If a country is poor, embroiled in conflict, or has a weak infrastructure, then it will probably suffer far more.
In response to disaster situations, DFID’s humanitarian work aims to save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain human dignity. We try to protect people’s livelihoods and to help affected countries cope with refugees and displaced people. Responding effectively requires expert analysis of the situation, and the ability to work with all the necessary partners to ensure aid is delivered to those most in need.
DFID leads the UK government’s response to humanitarian disasters in co-operation with international organisations such as the United Nations, with charities and other agencies, and with the governments of the countries affected.
Conflict in Sri Lanka
Since September 2008, DFID has allocated £7.5 million of humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka. With camps for displaced people struggling to cope with the amount of people escaping the conflict zone, DFID has called on the Sri Lankan government to do everything possible to enable humanitarian agencies to help these people.
Throughout the crisis DFID's money has ensured that emergency relief convoys containing essential supplies such as food and medicines have been able to remain operational. It has also enabled the International Committee of the Red Cross to continue its work protecting those affected by the conflict. New funding allocations have been made to UNHCR for the purchase of 5,000 family size tents, and to UNICEF for their work providing water and sanitation facilities in the camps, and protecting children separated from their families.
Conflict in the Occupied Palestinian Territories
In the wake of the recent conflict, DFID has allocated £26.8 million to humanitarian agencies since December 2008. This money is aimed at helping the men, women and children who have been injured, made homeless or otherwise affected by the fighting. DFID-funded humanitarian agencies will provide medical aid, food and water, as well as help to rebuild the region. This will include reconstruction of water supplies and destroyed buildings, counselling for people suffering from trauma and help for vulnerable groups such as the disabled and elderly.
Conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
DRC remains in the grips of a severe and prolonged humanitarian crisis. About 1.2 million people have been displaced by conflict in the east of the country. Millions of Congolese throughout the country remain food insecure and vulnerable to disease and natural disasters, such as floods and volcanoes.
Since the joint DRC/Rwandan military operations to tackle the FDLR (former Rwandan Hutu forces) between late January and the end of February, fighting in the east of the country has subsided. The long-term result of this operation remains uncertain and the humanitarian community remains prepared to deal with any resurgence in displacement or return.
In the north of Province Orientale, an ongoing joint DRC/Ugandan military operation which started in December against the Ugandan Lords Resistance Army (LRA) rebels has provoked widespread reprisals against the population by the LRA. This has generated significant humanitarian and protection needs for the population. Looting, kidnapping, rapes and killing are still being committed on a regular basis.
UK government resources are bringing much-needed assistance in the form of food, shelter, provision of clean drinking water and urgent medical care. DFID provided over £42 million in humanitarian assistance to DRC in 2008. To date this year, DFID has announced £35 million to the Humanitarian Pooled Fund and £4 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross 2009 appeal. DFID will continue to assess the ongoing humanitarian situation and other bilateral funding decisions will follow.
Cyclone in Burma
On 2 May 2008 Cyclone Nargis struck Burma with catastrophic force. Over 150,000 people are thought to have perished with huge numbers left homeless. The UK pledged the largest single sum of any aid donor. DFID despatched a relief team to help co-ordinate the international aid effort. Funds were sent immediately to non-governmental organisations working in the hard-hit Irrawaddy delta region of the country.
This was quickly followed by aid in the form of water and sanitation facilities, food, shelter and medicines. DFID also despatched plastic tarpaulins, mosquito nets, jerry cans and supply boats which were distributed through partner charities. The relief effort is ongoing and DFID now has over 50 projects running in Burma. To date the UK government has committed £45 million.
Hurricanes in the Caribbean
The 2008 hurricane season caused much damage across the Caribbean. UK government aid went to relieve hardship in Haiti, Turks and Caicos, and Cuba. The aid was delivered through the Red Cross, the UN and non-governmental organisations who work in the region. DFID provided immediate emergency relief to the worst affected countries.
This consisted of food, clean drinking water, shelter and sanitation and health facilities designed to prevent the spread of disease. Longer-term aid is required to help local people re-establish services, businesses and farming. In total the UK government gave £7.5 million.
Earthquake in China
On 12 May 2008 an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale struck the western Chinese province of Sichuan and its neighbours. Causing widespread destruction to buildings and infrastructure, the earthquake killed at least 70,000 people and injured over 370,000, destroyed 6.5 million homes and affected some 40 million people.
As an immediate response DFID contributed £1.1 million for tents, food and other material aid. Some £300,000 went to help survivors re-launch their businesses and other livelihoods. DFID is now providing technical assistance for the reconstruction effort, worth an additional £1 million. The focus will be on areas where DFID already works in China, such as health, education, water and sanitation.
Over 40% of Somalia's population is judged to be in need of humanitarian assistance – among the highest in the world. DFID is actively supporting humanitarian responses in the worst-affected areas of the country, targeting the most vulnerable people.
DFID’s humanitarian support to date has paid for emergency food aid, medical and nutritional programmes and, given the role of water-borne disease in causing child deaths, water and sanitation work.
Our support continues to target those affected by violence. For example, in Mogadishu and Kismayo, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) surgeons are providing lifesaving assistance to people wounded in fighting.
DFID only works through the most experienced international relief agencies, like the ICRC, the United Nations agencies (UNICEF, WFP) and others (World Vision, Action Against Hunger) that have demonstrated the ability to save lives in the most difficult operating environments.
In 2008 we spent over £20 million and our commitment to provide support to the most basic life-saving activities will continue throughout 2009. Read more about our work in Somalia.