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Goal 2: Resilience to disasters

Coping better by standing together.

The Pillowcase Project is reaching 12,559 children across Australia, by the simple means of inviting them to pack a pillowcase with the things they’d most want to protect. These kids are aware of the value of personal preparedness, are empowered to take action, and share what they’ve learned with friends and loved ones. Photo: Australian Red Cross/Amelia Wong.

Goal: Save lives, build resilient communities and support people in disasters

3 million Australians are equipped to be prepared for and recover from disasters

There has been a four-fold national increase in investment (government, corporate, other) in disaster risk reduction and community resilience

Key partners in 14 Asia-Pacific countries can demonstrate increased capacity to support communities prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters and humanitarian crises

Australian Red Cross is responding to disasters and other significant emergencies 100% of the time

Our emergency work is no longer seasonal – our teams were called out to 48 disasters and 333 single incidents throughout the year.

In addition to supporting people on the scene, we looked for new ways to help Australians prepare for emergencies to come. We formed multi-year partnerships with Australian businesses and advocated for nationwide investments in disaster resilience.

Australians continued to show empathy for people affected by crises overseas. Our generous donors helped us provide mobile health services in drought-stricken parts of East Africa; run field hospitals in Bangladesh, where thousands of families fled to escape violence in Myanmar; and respond to the damaging effects of cyclones in the Pacific.

There for Australians in emergencies

We supported 12,624 people in the wake of an emergency this year – from the fires in Tathra and Cobden to the Daly River floods and homicides in Margaret River and Princes Park in Melbourne.

We provided psychological first aid, offered practical support and a listening ear at evacuation and relief centres, registered people’s whereabouts and helped them re-establish contact with their loved ones.

We were also there for 35,963 Australians during their recovery – whether by making phone calls or visiting people at home, working at community events or supporting public memorials.

Partnerships for a resilient Australia

We commenced new multi-year partnerships with IAG and Land Rover to help communities and families get ready for emergencies.

As part of the Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience and Safer Communities, we released a report on disaster resilience levels by state and territory. We welcomed the Queensland Government’s $38 million Disaster Resilience Fund and the Federal Government’s announcement of a National Resilience Taskforce.

What we learned

Making preparedness easier and more timely

Qualitative research with our partner IAG helped us better understand how people feel about preparing for emergencies, and what might motivate them to do so. This informed the iterative development of our Get Prepared app, which helps people take simple steps to be safer and better connected.

Nonetheless, we know that people rarely take these steps unless they feel a threat is imminent. As disasters become more frequent, far-ranging and intense, our challenge is to help more Australians understand the threats they face in the areas they live; take their own steps to prepare; and influence others in their networks.

The Yusef women represent three generations of resilience, coping with recurring drought and malnutrition in Somaliland. Photo: Australian Red Cross/Peter Caton.

Responding to humanitarian crises

Escalating violence in Myanmar forced some 700,000 people to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh, creating an immediate crisis at the border. Our Myanmar Crisis Appeal raised $2.5 million, plus $1.8m in funding from the Australian Government.

Red Cross was active on both sides of the Myanmar/Bangladesh border to help people, survive and cope. In Cox’s Bazar, we provided field hospitals and clinics to treat illnesses and help children survive dehydration, safe drinking water and toilets,  as well as shelter supplies and sleeping mats to give families a dry place to sleep. 

Meanwhile, the $600,000 donated to our East Africa Food Crisis Appeal this year helped stock mobile health clinics that travel between remote villages in Somaliland to bring medicines, vaccinations and nutritional supplements for children, as well as emergency cash grants to people in Kenya.

Working with strong partners in our region

Evaluations in Vanuatu, Nepal, Myanmar and Kiribati indicated that our Red Cross partners were meeting both national priorities and local needs.

Our evaluation of a Cyclone Pam recovery program in Vanuatu identified improvements in shelter, health, livelihoods and sanitation. Shelter tool kits helped people to rebuild shelters using new styles promoted through ‘building back better’; and there were reported improvements in water quality. Just under half of the livelihoods training participants reported they were involved in small business or had found permanent jobs. An area for improvement is the need for better coordination between partners and a stronger focus on gender and diversity. Based on this, future emergency programming will incorporate the IFRC’s Minimum Standard Commitments to Protection, Gender and Inclusion – addressing Dignity, Access, Participation and Safety across all technical sectors.

In north-west Nepal, the project has achieved its target of doubling the number of people with increased knowledge of hygiene practices and students participating in behaviour change communication. There has also been an 80% increase in the number of people with access to hand washing facilities. In addition, more than 100 school-girls and 156 women can make menstrual pads using soft cotton cloths, and most girls and women below the age of 30 years use menstrual pads during their monthly period.. In Myanmar, our three-year health and resilience project in the Magway region resulted in positive changes in hygiene and sanitation behaviour, health and nutrition practices and access to water. The participation of women and people with disabilities was critical to the project’s success. 

In Kiribati, the evaluation of a water and sanitation project in Betio found that 104 toilets had been built and 73% of community members said their access to a toilet had improved a lot, and recommended the model be replicated in South Tarawa.

Lessons learned from evaluations were not only embedded into our ongoing work; but informed a re-design of our operating model in response to rapidly-changing humanitarian needs.

We are grateful for the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, a key partner in our international humanitarian work.

What we learned

Localising aid

Australian Red Cross believes that that local humanitarian agencies should lead the response to a crisis in their own countries; but how should the international humanitarian system change to make this achievable?

We released Going Local, a research report that outlines the changes that Pacific humanitarian agencies want to see. The system will only change, they told us, when the power dynamics beneath it change. This means more decision making by national actors; better use of capacity that already exists within a country; and national control over when, how and where international resources are used.

Red Cross Red Crescent, with a local presence in 191 countries, has always been part of the fabric of communities. We are strong proponents of local leadership in disaster management, backed by international support where necessary and invited; but we can do more to advance this.