if you combine the financing of 12 of the poorest countries, for every $1 on disaster ‘risk reduction’, $160,000 has been spent on disaster ‘response’.
Before the international community even hits the scene, the volunteer networks, friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens are already mobilizing to help each other recover. These vital early responses often go unrecognized as the official response is only recorded after the international aid system touches ground. That middle-income countries might be taking on more responsibility in identifying risk and vulnerability—and building awareness around these points — is a point that should be lauded by the international aid community.
We’ve seen this local response happen in many Asian countries prone to recurrent natural disasters: Cyclone Phalain, which touched land last month in India, was the largest cyclone to hit the country in fourteen years. It resulted in just over 20 casualties thanks to the extensive evacuations carried out by the government. Fourteen years ago India experienced a similar catastrophe, but the casualty count was over 10,000 people. The 1991 cyclone in Bangladesh killed between 135,00 and 150,000 civilians whereas Cyclone Sidr in 2007 (of similar strength) killed 2000. This drastic drop in casualties can be attributed, mainly, to the fact that the government worked with the Red Cross to issue early warnings and evacuate the at-risk communities. The success of this response reflects the years spent developing community risk awareness in India.