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International aid resources warning

The international community will fail to provide effective help during humanitarian emergencies unless aid charities and governments based in the world's poorest countries are given more resources to prevent disasters from developing in the first place, Oxfam has warned.

The charity said that while governments and aid agencies had improved the way they dealt with a crisis, political action often only followed media coverage and this meant that when help arrived at the scene of a disaster it was "too little, too late".

Television pictures could be crucial when it came to raising the profile of a disaster but it was often difficult for aid organisations to generate media interest in a looming crisis.

More resources, such as medicines and food stores, need to be placed closer to potential emergency zones over time, while training is also required so those on the ground when a disaster happens can respond effectively in the immediate aftermath, Oxfam said in a new report called Crises in a New World Order.

Following an earthquake in 2009, relief reached the people of Padang in Sumatra much quicker than it otherwise would have after Oxfam worked with local charities to build up stores of essential equipment and food.

With some of the world's poorest countries experiencing increasingly severe weather such as cyclones and torrential rain, and the international community unable to resolve long-running conflicts, the likelihood of humanitarian disasters is increasing, the charity said.

Jane Cocking, Oxfam's humanitarian director, said: "Coping with the expected strains on the humanitarian system will mean a shift from global to local.

"We are already seeing the centre of humanitarian action moving away from the Western world to the local and the national but this move needs to accelerate. International aid agencies cannot just pitch up, patch up and push-off, they also have to ensure that people and countries are better prepared to withstand future shocks.

"Having local organisations already on the ground primed to go will increase both the speed and the efficiency of the aid effort and ultimately will save more lives."

The report found it would cost less to prevent crises escalating and while many governments have developed policies to increase investment, there has been too little effective action.

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