April 21, 2009 / 12:55 AM / 11 years ago

Climate change, wars could sink aid system: Oxfam

LONDON (Reuters) - The world’s relief agencies will be overwhelmed by a rise in the number of people affected by climate-related disasters by 2015 unless the quantity and quality of aid improves, a report said on Tuesday.

“There is nothing inevitable about a future in which greater numbers of people die and are made destitute by natural hazards and conflict,” the report by international aid group Oxfam said.

“In a future of climate change, rising hazard and a proliferation of disasters, the world can still mitigate threats and reduce people’s vulnerability to them.”

Climate crises are projected to affect more than 375 million people each year by 2015, up from nearly 250 million now, as global warming leads to more extreme weather including droughts and floods and the poor crowd into city slums, the report said.

The figure does not include people hit by other disasters such as earthquakes and wars.

To cope with the unprecedented need for assistance, spending on humanitarian aid needs to rise to at least $25 billion a year from around $14 billion in 2006, Oxfam said.

The report also urged rich nations to give aid more fairly, rather than according to political and security interests.

“The humanitarian system is a post-code lottery on a global scale,” Oxfam GB Chief Executive Barbara Stocking said in a statement. “The response is often fickle — too little, too late and not good enough. There must be a fundamental reform of the system so that those in need are its first and foremost priority.”

The agency warned that climate change threatened its work to overcome poverty, and called on rich nations to commit themselves at U.N. talks to cuts in greenhouse gas emissions that will keep global warming below a rise of 2 degrees Celsius. It also wants them to provide at least $50 billion a year to help poor countries adapt to unavoidable climate change.

Jane Cocking, Oxfam’s humanitarian director, told Reuters the aid system also faced a heavy burden from long-running conflicts in places like Sudan’s western region of Darfur.

“When you look at where international humanitarian assistance goes, places like Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and Darfur are dropping so far down the political agenda, it’s appalling,” she said.

The report notes the inequality in the amounts of aid given to different emergencies — for example, in 2004, $1,241 was spent on each survivor of the Asian tsunami, while those caught up in Chad’s humanitarian crisis received only $23 each.

Oxfam also criticized the global aid system for being too Western and focused on centralized responses to large, high-profile disasters. It said humanitarian aid must become more appropriate for local needs, and be delivered faster.

Reporting by Megan Rowling, editing by Richard Williams

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