Cyclone Idai exposes the gap of disaster risk relief financing in Africa

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘BROOKINGS BRIEF’ NEWS)

 

AFRICA IN FOCUS

Cyclone Idai exposes the gap of disaster risk relief financing in Africa

Mohamed Beavogui

Cyclone Idai that wreaked havoc on southern Africa is reminding us of the need to quickly devise sustainable solutions to confront climate and natural disaster risks. Right now, the humanitarian community and the governments of Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe are appealing for resources and emergency relief to assist over 3 million affected people.

The United Nations has classified Cyclone Idai as the worst tropical cyclone to have hit the southern Africa region in decades. The strong winds and torrential rains have put the region in a state of crisis, causing huge losses of life; flattening buildings; triggering massive floods that damaged critical infrastructure and farmlands, and submerged entire communities; leaving affected people in desperate situations without shelter, food, safe drinking water, and sanitation and hygiene.

The governments of Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe have mobilized their limited available financial, logistical, and humanitarian resources for early response in the affected areas. The international community has sent in volunteer rescue workers and humanitarian aid to support local efforts. However, governments of affected countries and United Nations agencies are still requesting additional resources to support ravaged communities.

Recently, disasters such as cyclones, droughts, and floods are increasing in both frequency and magnitude. According to U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, from 1998 to 2017, disaster-hit countries reported direct economic losses of $2.9 trillion, of which climate-related disasters accounted for $2.2 trillion. Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions to natural disasters and the impacts of climate change, despite contributing the least to global warming. Climate-induced disaster effects on the continent are particularly devastating and are mainly caused by drought, flood, and cyclones, as well as outbreaks and epidemics of diseases like Ebola, Lassa Fever, and Marburg. The economic and social burden of natural disaster and disease outbreaks was estimated at $53.19 billion in 2014.

In terms of response, the continent has been struggling to allocate part of its limited resources to disaster preparedness, due to various competing priorities in health, education, infrastructure, and other sectors. Hence, the bulk of interventions in the event of disasters comes from donors. Typically, when a disaster strikes, countries, with the help of the international community, launch humanitarian appeals and work to raise funds to respond to the crisis. Meanwhile, the people affected by the disaster are forced to make difficult decisions that deteriorate their livelihoods and reverse hard-earned development gains, forcing more people into destitution, food insecurity, chronic poverty, and, often, involuntary migration.

To change this paradigm, the African Union Heads of State established the African Risk Capacity (ARC) in 2012 to support the development of better risk management systems on the continent, while simultaneously reducing the dependence of African countries on the international community for disaster relief.

ARC brings together three critical elements of disaster risk management to create a powerful value proposition for its members and partners: early warning systems, response planning based on well-prepared and validated contingency plans, and an index-based insurance and risk pooling mechanism.

Several lessons have emerged during the institution’s first five years. The most important is that the resource gap needed to protect vulnerable populations against disasters can be reduced substantially through a combination of efforts and collaboration between governments, international aid, and the private sector. To build sustainable and country-driven responses, aid resources should support government budgets in financing innovative mechanisms, such as risk transfer, and leverage resources from the private sector through, for example, insurance and bonds.

Right now, less than two-thirds of humanitarian appeals are met and only 8 percent of actual losses are covered by international aid in 77 of the world’s poorest countries. The insurance sector covers only 3 percent of disaster-induced losses through payouts. The share of disaster insurance could be substantially increased using innovative risk transfer mechanisms that incorporate governments, international humanitarian agencies, international financial institutions, nongovernmental organizations, insurance companies, and other private sector companies operating in disaster finance. Through this type of scheme, one dollar used to pay for a premium could generate several fold more dollars through a payout.

This model of collaboration could build a sustainable, inclusive, market-based, and more responsive system to drastically reduce the current resource gap. Moreover, the fact that $1 spent for early intervention can save over $4 in a period of six to nine months means the need for overall resources for response would reduce accordingly. Therefore, the availability of adequate resources for early intervention is a solution to explore not with new financing but with already existing resources pre-earmarked by governments and humanitarian partners.

As per current experimentation at ARC, partners such as humanitarian agencies and NGOs can participate in ARC’s disaster insurance schemes through a program called Replica. With help from the German government, these institutions can access aid resources and sign policies with ARC Ltd., the financial affiliate of the ARC group. Under this scheme, the insurance policy taken out by humanitarian partners replicates the policy signed by the government, hence increasing the coverage of the population insured. The actor and the government implement a common response plan when a disaster strikes and the index-based insurance is triggered. The advantage is the ability to provide larger resources earlier after a disaster strikes since money will be available immediately through payouts. The actor will also be able to not only intervene earlier but also provide assistance through an agreed early response plan, thus giving time for international humanitarian efforts to take action.

The combination of early warning contingency planning and index-based risk transfer and pooling is certainly, among others, a solution that can significantly contribute to the reduction of the gap in disaster protection. A solution to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of humanitarian efforts is in front of us, and all existing actors have a role to play, particularly humanitarian agencies and NGOs.

UN Urges More Mediterranean Rescue Efforts after Aquarius Pullout

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

UN Urges More Mediterranean Rescue Efforts after Aquarius Pullout

Saturday, 8 December, 2018 – 10:00
FILE PHOTO: Migrants disembark from the MV Aquarius, a search and rescue ship run in partnership between SOS Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres, after it arrived in Augusta on the island of Sicily, Italy, January 30, 2018. REUTERS/Antonio Parrinello/File Photo
Geneva – Asharq Al-Awsat
French NGO Medecins sans Frontieres has warned that the end of operations of the last refugee rescue ship working in the Mediterranean Sea, Aquarius, would mean more migrants would die, as the UN expressed concern over the decision to retire the vessel.

“This is a somber day,” Nelke Mander, Medecins sans Frontieres’s general director, said in a statement Thursday. “The end of our operations onboard the Aquarius will mean more death in the sea, deaths that are avoidable and without witnesses.”

The decision to moor the Aquarius is the result of a “constant denigration, smearing and obstruction campaign led” against Medecins sans Frontieres and SOS MEDITERRANEAN by the Italian government and supported by other European countries, the NGO said.

The Aquarius was recently accused of trafficking waste and criminal activities — accusations that are “ludicrous”, Reuters quoted Medecins sans Frontieres as saying.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has repeatedly closed Italian ports to the Aquarius, forcing it to sail for days with dozens of rescued migrants aboard to find a port in other countries.

Salvini has refused to take more migrants from the Aquarius, demanding other European Union countries take a share of migrants. He also said the rescue ships like Aquarius encouraged people to take the sea to cross towards Europe.

SOS MEDITERRANEAN director of operations Frederic Penard said “giving up the Aquarius has been an extremely difficult decision” but added that the group was “actively exploring options for a new boat”.

“Search and rescue capacity needs to be reinforced rather than diminished,” UN refugee agency spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo told reporters in Geneva.

She stressed the need to leave “space for NGOs to contribute in a coordinated manner to these efforts”.

“Saving lives is our primary concern,” AFP quoted her as saying.

Aquarius has helped almost 30,000 migrants at sea who have attempted the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.

A Leading Elephant Conservationist Has Been Murdered in Tanzania

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

A Leading Elephant Conservationist Has Been Murdered in Tanzania

5:18 AM ET

Police in Tanzania have launched an investigation into the murder of a leading elephant conservationist who was shot dead in Dar es Salaam. He had received numerous death threats in connection with his anti-poaching initiatives.

Wayne Lotter, 51, was killed by unknown gunmen in the Tanzanian capital as he travelled by taxi from the city’s airport to his hotel, the Guardian reports. The PAMS Foundation, the NGO Lotter co-founded, supports conservation and anti-poaching efforts in communities across Africa.

“Wayne devoted his life to Africa’s wildlife. From working as a ranger in his native South Africa as a young man to leading the charge against poaching in Tanzania, Wayne cared deeply about the people and animals that populate this world,” the PAMS Foundation team said in a statement posted to Facebook. “He died bravely fighting for the cause he was most passionate about.”

PAMS has protected 32,000 elephants and confiscated more than 1150 firearms, according to its website. It also funds and supports Tanzania’s National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit (NTSCIU), the body behind the arrest of “Queen of Ivory” Yang Feng Glan and several other high profile ivory poachers and traders.

African elephant populations shrunk by an estimated 30% between 2007 and 2014, according to the latest elephant census data. Lotter had previously said that the NTSCIU — which has arrested more than 2,000 poachers and traffickers since 2012 — had helped halve poaching rates in Tanzania.

Labor abuses found at Indonesian palm plantations supplying global companies: Amnesty

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Labor abuses found at Indonesian palm plantations supplying global companies: Amnesty

By Eveline Danubrata and Bernadette Christina Munthe | JAKARTA

Global consumer companies, including Unilever, Nestle, Kellogg and Procter & Gamble, have sourced palm oil from Indonesian plantations where labor abuses were uncovered, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

Children as young as eight worked in “hazardous” conditions at palm plantations run by Singapore-based Wilmar International Ltd and its suppliers on the Indonesian islands of Kalimantan and Sumatra, Amnesty said in a report.

Amnesty, which said it interviewed 120 workers, alleges that many of them worked long hours for low pay and without adequate safety equipment. The palm oil from these plantations could be traced to nine multinational companies, it said.

“Despite promising customers that there will be no exploitation in their palm oil supply chains, big brands continue to profit from appalling abuses,” said Meghna Abraham, senior investigator at Amnesty.

The NGO said it chose Wilmar as the focus of its investigation as the company is the world’s largest processor and merchandiser of palm and lauric oils, controlling more than 43 percent of the global palm oil trade.

Other companies operating palm plantations in Indonesia include Golden Agri-Resources Ltd, Indofood Agri Resources Ltd and PT Astra Agro Lestari Tbk.

Even though Indonesia had strong labor laws under which most of the abuses can amount to criminal offences, these laws were poorly enforced by the government, Amnesty said.

Wilmar said it welcomed the NGO’s report, which helps to highlight labor issues within the broader palm oil industry, but added that finding a solution requires collaboration between governments, companies and civil society organizations. (For Wilmar’s full statement, click bit.ly/2fx0q1t)

“We acknowledge that there are ongoing labor issues in the palm oil industry, and these issues could affect any palm company operating in Indonesia,” it said.

“The focus on Wilmar … is often used to draw attention to problems in the wider palm oil industry.”

Wilmar supplies around 10 percent of the total palm oil used in Nestle’s products, the Swiss food giant said in an email. Nestle said it is working with Wilmar to improve the traceability of the commodity.

“Practices such as those identified in Amnesty International’s report have no place in our supply chain,” Nestle said. The company said it would investigate allegations related to its purchase of palm oil along with its suppliers.

Procter & Gamble also said in an email it is working with Wilmar to “ensure they can remedy any potential human rights infringements in their supply chain”.

Indonesia is the world’s biggest producer of palm oil, used in everything from snacks and soaps to cosmetics and biofuels, with the sector employing millions of workers. But plantation operators say it is difficult to have complete oversight of labor conditions.

No company would “consciously” hire underage labor as that is against the law, but some plantation workers get their children to help out, Sumarjono Saragih, an official at the Indonesian Palm Oil Association, told Reuters by telephone.

“If children want to help their parents, companies cannot forbid that.”

Agus Justianto, an official at Indonesia’s environment ministry, said that a company found guilty of labor violations could get its permit revoked, but it is “not in the environment ministry’s domain.”

Indonesia’s manpower ministry did not immediately provide comment.

U.S. snack and breakfast food company Kellogg Co said it is committed to ensuring that its palm oil is obtained from “known and certified sources that are environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable”.

If Kellogg finds or is made aware of any supply chain violations, it would discuss corrective actions with its suppliers, it said. “If the concerns are not adequately addressed, we take action to remove them from our chain.”

Unilever said while significant progress has been made to tackle environmental issues associated with palm cultivation, more needs to be done to address “these deeply concerning social issues” and promised to work with its partners.

(Reporting by Eveline Danubrata and Bernadette Christina Munthe in JAKARTA; Additional reporting by Masayuki Kitano in SINGAPORE; Editing by Tom Hogue and Kenneth Maxwell)