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£3m project launched to help aid charities predict and plan for disasters

08 Nov 2021 News

An aid convoy

The UK government is investing £1m in a scheme to help aid charities predict where and when humanitarian disasters will strike.

The scheme, called Start Ready, is being led by Start Network, a global network of large aid charities including Oxfam, Save the Children, Christian Aid and CAFOD.

Organisers claim it will “revolutionise” the way the aid sector works, but other aid experts said that the scheme is unlikely to get resources to communities where they are most needed.

Start Ready is backed with £3m in initial funding, including £1m pledged by the government through the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

Predicting emergencies

The scheme will use local expertise, as well as data modelling and risk analysis, to predict when and where climate-related crises may emerge, and will share resources with charities to help them prepare in advance. 

As soon as humanitarian disasters like droughts, flooding and heatwaves are predicted, funding will be released to start handling the crisis. 

£3m in funding has been committed to the scheme so far, including from the UK government, French government, the IKEA Foundation and Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies. 

Concerns about funds reaching communities

Christina Bennett, chief executive of Start Network, said: “The climate emergency is escalating rapidly, but the global humanitarian funding system is not keeping pace. Although 55% of crises are somewhat predictable, only 1% of humanitarian funding is released before disaster strikes.” 

She added: “Pre-emptive climate risk financing will revolutionise the aid sector by making funding more efficient and effective. It will help communities become more resilient to climate risks – and save more lives.”

However, Claire Collins, a trustee at the Small International Development Charities Network, warned that the scheme “does not go far enough to tackle the crisis that we are facing”. 

Collins welcomed news of the programme but said: “The communities supported by small international development charities, who have been working at the forefront of climate change as it has been unfolding, will not get any support from this. 

“These communities have felt the impact of these changes first hand. Many are hard to reach and rely on subsistence farming. Natural disasters have had devastating impacts on harvests resulting in malnutrition, poverty and health problems setting whole communities back.”

Bond, the umbrella body for aid organisations, said that the initiative should be the first step in much more work to predict and address humanitarian crises.

Stephanie Draper, the chief executive of Bond, said: “Millions are already experiencing the impacts of climate change, and those who have caused it the least are suffering the most. It is good to see this commitment and we need more of these, quickly and at scale, if we are to have any hope of supporting those most vulnerable to climate change.”

Vel Gnanendran, the climate and environment director at the FCDO, said: “The UK has committed £1m to Start Ready, to help organisations deliver earlier and more effective humanitarian action across up to eight countries – protecting more lives and livelihoods from climate-related emergencies.”

The FCDO did not respond to questions about whether this investment was new money or came from the government’s existing aid budget.

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