SOS fund 'dangerously unprepared'
Rich countries are failing to contribute to an international emergency fund leaving the world "dangerously unprepared" for future disasters, the International Development Secretary has warned.
Andrew Mitchell said the United Nations' disaster response funding system is expected to be left severely underfunded despite a wave of large-scale disasters over the last year, including famine in the Horn of Africa, the Japan tsunami, New Zealand earthquake and floods in Pakistan and the Philippines.
Growing numbers of people living in vulnerable areas means the number of those affected by major tragedies is expected to increase in future, he added.
The Government is giving £20 million support to the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) next year, in addition to £40 million already pledged, and has called on the international community to "wake up" to the challenge ahead.
It said many rich countries wait until a disaster strikes before responding, which means critical emergency first response work could be put at risk. The fund - set up following the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami to provide a coordinated international response - is expected to have a shortfall of £45 million next year.
Mr Mitchell said: "This year the world has been rocked by devastating disasters and the evidence suggests this trend is likely to continue.
"The past shows that international responses could have been more effective if they had been properly planned and coordinated as part of one single system instead of a patch-quilt approach we see all too often.
"The system is in place but too many countries and agencies are failing to back it, leaving the world dangerously unprepared for the scale and number of shocks that lie ahead.
"In those first critical hours when, for example, survivors are still trapped in the rubble of an earthquake, delays and confusion can mean the difference between life and death. The international community must wake up to this challenge and unite its efforts under one umbrella."