Aid Groups Expand Emergency Response With Gates Funding

SEATTLE, Washington, March 22, 2005 (ENS) - In the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami, seven humanitarian organizations are collaborating to expand the pool of qualified aid workers, helping address key shortages in skills by means of the newly created Emergency Capacity-Building Initiative.

The partnering organizations of the initiative are CARE, Catholic Relief Services, the International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, Oxfam GB, Save the Children Federation and World Vision International.

The initiative, funded with a grant of $5.18 million over two years from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to combine the agencies' collective knowledge and experience to improve the speed, quality and effectiveness of emergency response. damage

The December 2004 earthquake and tsunami smashed buildings in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. (Photo courtesy Mercy Corps)
Suzanne Cluett, the Gates Foundation’s associate director for Global Health Strategies, said, "As the enormous tsunami relief and rehabilitation effort in Asia demonstrates, the world depends on private humanitarian organizations to play a major role in caring for those devastated by disaster. We believe that the Emergency Capacity-Building Initiative will help ensure that future disasters are responded to even more rapidly and effectively.”

The grant will help humanitarian organizations hire and train personnel who can lead rebuilding efforts in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand, replacing emergency workers who now have to return to their usual duties in other countries. Most new staff will be citizens of the countries in which they work.

Some 160 nongovernmental organizations have been involved in the emergency relief efforts in the Indonesian province of Aceh, since the tsunami on December 26, 2004 claimed the lives of some 200,000 people in Indonesia and made another 10,000 homeless in the province

Aceh was hardest hit by the giant wave, but its effects were felt in 11 countries around the Indian Ocean. In total, the earthquake-generated tsunami left at least 300,000 people dead or missing and presumed dead and displaced more than five million people from their homes. repair

Within days of the tsunami disaster, Mercy Corps launched a cash for work program that pays local workers in the devastated fishing town of Meulaboh, Indonesia to repair boats and move them back to sea to resume fishing. (Photo by Cassandra Nelson courtesy Mercy Corps)
Only the strongest and most capable foreign nongovernmental organizations will be permitted to remain in Indonesia after April 27, an Indonesian government minister said Monday.

Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare and Poverty Alleviation Alwi Shihab told reporters in Jakarta that the government will extend its previous deadline of March 26 by one month to give the government time to select the groups it considers capable of conducting the work of recovery.

"They'd better stay in the province to answer our questions, said Shihab. "We will find out which may continue and which may not, [based on their] capability and capacity as well as experience for the reconstruction and rehabilitation."

"Many people responded to our call for experts in water, sanitation, and shelter reconstruction, and they offer great technical skills," said John Palien, manager of human resources operations at Catholic Relief Services, a member of the Emergency Capacity-Building Initiative coalition. "The problem is that most do not have international experience and very, very few have prior experience in disaster contexts such as this one." Bush

Former President George H.W.Bush speaks with Diana Setiawati of Catholic Relief Services Indonesia, during his visit to Banda Aceh in February. (Photo courtesy CRS)
The initiative will invest in mechanisms to build capacity of local staff and more rapidly deploy them in times of crisis. It will also launch programs with communities and governments to reduce their vulnerability to disasters and enhance their ability to respond when disasters do occur.

Project activities will improve speed, quality, and effectiveness in saving lives, improving the welfare and protecting the rights of people in emergency situations.

The coalition will use the Gates Foundation funding to build their capacity for emergency response, as well as improve processes that measure results and ensure accountability.

"This timely grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will allow our organizations to save more lives when catastrophe strikes," said Peter Bell, president and CEO of CARE USA, on behalf of the coalition. "We have a responsibility to arrive as quickly as possible, help as many affected people as we can, and remain until their lives have been rebuilt."