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Disaster funding figures reveal failure

Written by Jan Kellett

Just over one in every ten dollars spent on dealing with disasters is spent on preparing for and preventing them according to new research from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery.

Over the past 10 years, disasters and disaster risk has attracted much attention, with the international community experiencing some of the largest impacts ever seen (Haiti Earthquake 2010, Asian-Indian Tsunami of 2004, Cyclone Nargis in 2008). However, global commitment to supporting developing countries in managing their disaster risk has barely increased.

Despite increased rhetoric about disaster risk over recent years, financing for disaster prevention and preparedness remains depressingly low.

For a 20-year period up to 2010, the international community has committed just over US$3 trillion in international aid; during the same period it committed US$106.7 billion to disasters. Over this same 20 years, only 12.7%, just US$13.5 billion, has actually been spent on disaster prevention and preparedness, compared to US$23.3 billion on reconstruction and US$69.9 billion on disaster-related emergency response. For every US$100 spent on disasters, only US$12 is spent on preventing them in the first place. 

The new figures also raise question marks over whether current financing is being distributed fairly. Commitments to disaster prevention and preparedness are heavily concentrated, with the top ten countries accounting for US$7.9 billion (60%) of the total (the remaining 155 countries sharing the remaining US$5.6 billion.) Most of the countries in the top ten are also middle-income countries with large economies, like China (US$1578 million received) and Indonesia (US$1439 received). In comparison, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Haiti, which are countries with a very high mortality risk from natural hazards, have only received US$22, US$161 and US$99 million respectively over 20 years.

Jan Kellett from the Climate and Environment Programme at the ODI said:

“These figures should provide plenty of reasons to stop and think about whether we are really on the right course when it comes to dealing with disasters. It seems like common sense that where possible we should be preventing disasters, not just to help save lives but also to save money. 

If making disaster risk central to the development agenda beyond 2015 is to have any meaningful success beyond the merely rhetorical, then the international community needs to invest, and invest now. ”