As slow disasters are on the increase, we must improve our response - report & webinar

Not all disasters happen at the same speed. While Typhoon Haiyan killed 6,000 people and injured nearly 30,000 in a few hours in the Philippines, drought frequently hits parts of Africa, causing the gradual displacement of millions of people over a longer period of time. Against the background of climate change and rapid urbanisation, slow disasters - also frequently referred to as slow-onset crises - are expected to increase. Therefore, it is crucial that humanitarian aid agencies learn to deal with them more efficiently.

Within the framework of the Transforming Surge Capacity project, a group of researchers has enquired how the humanitarian aid sector responds to slow-onset crisis. They compiled a report that provides a series of real-life examples of how agencies have been responding to slow-onset crises in the last two and a half years:

  • Responding to El Niño-related drought in Zimbabwe, ActionAid used in-country staff, who had been trained in emergencies and were able to scale up funding built on limited contingency funding;
  • Christian Aid responded to the 2013 drought in Andhra Pradesh, India, working with local partners and bringing in two temporary surge staff members from New Delhi and neighbouring Bangladesh;
  • In Papua New Guinea, which was the worst affected country by El Niño in the region, CARE responded in 2015 and 2016 with a combined international and national team. They were able to produce the necessary assessment to secure funding while supporting the integration of emergency response into CARE’s regular programme work in the country.

Relying on these examples, the report advocates for changes in surge policies and practices. The suggestions include: adapting funding mechanisms, training national and surge teams in slow-onset response skills, making better use of existing assessment tools (e.g. the Situation and Response Analysis Framework), and supporting new initiatives to tackle slow-onset crises, such as the Start Network’s Drought Financing Facility.

The Transforming Surge Capacity project seeks to strengthen civil society’s surge capacity. It will bring together 11 START Network agencies and two technical partners at international, regional (Asia) and national (Pakistan and Philippines) levels to share and agree on good practices, and develop minimum standards relating to surge. 

The project has initiated pilot joint surge initiatives between NGO agencies (e.g. joint rosters), and in collaboration with the private and government sectors. It also tests models of what works where, and what can be taken to scale.

For more information, kindly contact Catherine Kenyon, International Project Manager at ActionAid International: Catherine.Kenyon@actionaid.org.

Webinar: Responding to slow-onset crises

On 28 March Glenn O'Neil, one of the authors of the publication presented the key findings and the recommendations of the report.