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Red Cross wins Pacific Humanitarian Challenge

Australian Red Cross has been awarded an Australian Government prize for an innovative idea to improve disaster response across the Pacific.

Friday May 6, 2016

Rakiraki aid distribution
We will develop pre-disaster agreements with Pacific Island businesses to resource relief and recovery operations. Photo: IFRC/Navneet Narayan

"We're delighted to be among the winners of the Pacific Humanitarian Challenge to rethink disaster responses," said Peter Walton, Director of International Programs, Australian Red Cross.

"When big disasters strike, such as cyclones or tsunami, there are massive challenges to get life-saving aid to where it's urgently needed across hundreds of remote islands in the Pacific.  

"In the past two years, Fiji and Vanuatu have been battered by the most powerful cyclones on record and in each country, it was a race against time to get relief supplies to people who had lost everything.  

"Local relief goods run out fast and it's a huge task to fly or ship aid in from around the world. Airport runways are closed to commercial flights, causing extra strain on tourism and the local economy."

The Red Cross project aims will increase the speed and effectiveness of disaster response in the Pacific by building partnerships between humanitarian agencies and local suppliers of goods and services. This will lead to pre-disaster arrangements between supplies and humanitarian agencies, tracked using a custom-built digital platform.

"We're engaging local Pacific businesses, who can distribute relief supplies efficiently and quickly, providing a vital boost to local economies that suffer after disasters," Mr Walton said. 

Ultimately it could mean that Pacific Island businesses are much more involved in a disaster response: from providing relief supplies to storing them in warehouses, transporting them in boats and providing contract labour to help with rebuilding homes or clearing roads.  

The Pacific Humanitarian Challenge is an Australian Government initiative. Funds will support a pilot project in one Pacific nation, with a view to regional expansion. 

"This is a great opportunity to support our Pacific neighbours to become more self sufficient, reducing suffering and saving lives in disasters," Mr Walton said.