Aid donors 'raise risk of disasters'

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Developing countries face increasing danger from natural disasters because of the arrogance and "myopic vision" of aid donors, an influential study said yesterday.

Developing countries face increasing danger from natural disasters because of the arrogance and "myopic vision" of aid donors, an influential study said yesterday.

The World Disaster Report, published by the International Red Cross and the Red Crescent, claims that Third World states that take measures against natural calamities can be penalised by Western countries and aid organisations because they are seen to be less needy.

Western governments are accused of wasting vast amounts on often self-aggrandising rescue operations launched in response to preventable disasters. The reluctance of donors to finance preventive measures means that the number of people affected by disasters is expected to rise sharply from 170 million last year. The number of disaster victims has tripled since the 1970s, and, in the long term, climate change is threatening up to two billion people.

Yet the European Community's Humanitarian Office spent just 1.5 per cent of its aid budget on disaster preparedness last year. The authors claim that the resources spent "after the horse has bolted" do nothing to protect vulnerable communities against future earthquakes or floods.

For instance, after the flood disaster in Mozambique in 2000, donors pledged $470m (£316m) for reconstruction projects, yet the Mozambique government struggled to find funding for measures to provide early warning of further flooding. Mozambique is held up as an example of the "myopic vision" of the international community in refusing to provide adequate preventive funds.

It also shows how high-profile international rescue operations give a false impression of the actual situation. Dr Joseph Hanlon, an expert on the Mozambique emergency, pointed out that it was "Africans who saved Africans" during the flooding despite the media coverage to the contrary.

He added that the conditions imposed on Mozambique also "warped and fragmented" the aid situation. He said that while 515,000 people faced drought in the south of the country, a 100,000-ton surplus of wheat in the north could not be used because the aid donors insisted that it would interfere with market forces. Dr Hanlon said: "The arrogance of [donors] who come to Mozambique and say 'This is what you must do' has to be seen to be believed.''

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