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Belgium provides assistance for lesser-known disasters

Rode Kruis België/Croix-rouge de Belgique
20 February 2017
Every year, Belgium donates €600,000 with which the Belgian Red Cross can provide assistance in the event of 'silent disasters'. In 2015 alone, 346 disasters occurred which were unknown to just about everyone. Nonetheless, they resulted in almost 23,000 fatalities and affected around 100,000 people. Since silent disasters do not enjoy media attention, public support is also very limited.

 

The Red Cross helps assist

9 out of every 10 disasters for which the Red Cross takes action go unnoticed. However, the consequences for the affected population, who live also generally in extremely vulnerable situations before any disasters occur, can be devastating.

When these silent disasters occur, the local Red Cross or Red Crescent societies are often the first and only relief organisations on the ground. The organisation's local interconnectedness ensures that it is the ideal relief organisation for providing assistance in such disasters. Local Red Cross volunteers are part of this community - and therefore part of the affected areas - and as such are also often victims. As a result, they often know the needs on the ground better than anyone else, and how to provide tailored assistance.

 

The Belgian Red Cross can provide financial support thanks to the contribution made by the Belgian government.

To make this assistance financially possible, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has the "Disaster Relief Emergency Fund" at its disposal: an emergency fund which can immediately release the necessary resources, whereby local volunteers can rapidly assist where necessary. Thanks to the support of the Belgian government, the Belgian Red Cross can contribute €600,000 every year to the fund. Among other projects in 2016, it was possible to provide financial assistance 11 times for disasters which were barely mentioned in the media, all around the world. For example, financial contributions were made during flooding in India, Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal and the Democratic Republic of Congo, an earthquake in Tanzania, and an outbreak of cholera in Benin. Thanks to these interventions, local Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers were able to support 2.5 million people with life-saving humanitarian aid, far away from the spotlight.

Thanks to these interventions, local Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers were able to support 2.5 million people with life-saving humanitarian aid, far away from the spotlight.

Red Cross members saving a boy from a river
© IFRC

Harsh winter results in even more silent disasters

160,000 people are also currently affected by another silent disaster: the extremely harsh winter in Mongolia, with temperatures dropping to -40°C, has made it extremely difficult to survive for a section of the population. This has mainly affected the section of the population which maintains a nomadic way of life, and who are closed off from the civilised world by the huge amount of snow. Access to medical aid, food and other services are impossible for almost 40,000 families, due to the exceptional weather conditions in the country.

The International Red Cross also assists here, where it can. For example, medical kits have been distributed by local Red Cross volunteers to the victims, and all families have received cash transfers to give them more financial breathing space.

 

Disasters Humanitarian aid