International Disaster Assistance
FY2016 Funding Recommendation:
President's FY2016 Request
InterAction's FY2016 Recommendation
Funding of at least $2.5 billion would allow USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) to provide lifesaving assistance following natural and man-made disasters, including conflicts, earthquakes, floods, and droughts. InterAction recommends no less than $1.7 billion for OFDA’s base budget, and no less than $800 million for the Emergency Food Security Program (EFSP). Managed by the Office of Food for Peace, EFSP provides cash-based emergency food assistance through critical voucher programs, local and regional food purchases, and related cash-based emergency assistance efforts that enable rapid delivery of assistance.1
IDA funding is essential for OFDA to respond quickly and effectively to millions of people in need of assistance due to conflict and other complex humanitarian crises in places like Iraq (5.2 million), South Sudan (6.4 million), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (6.5 million), and Central African Republic (2.7 million). This funding is also crucial for responding to the Syria crisis, which has resulted in 7.6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and over 3 million refugees in neighboring countries, and has necessitated the largest humanitarian funding appeal ($8.4 billion) ever requested. In 2016, EFSP will require at least $600 million for Syria-related needs, and a minimum of $200 million for the rest of the world.
IDPs receive far less international support than refugees, despite facing similar challenges. With global humanitarian needs mounting, U.S. assistance to displaced persons should not depend on whether they have crossed a national border.
Disasters disproportionately kill and injure the poor – particularly women and children – in developing countries. Economic loss caused by large and small disasters continues to significantly increase. IDA funds critical disaster risk reduction (DRR) programs to strengthen community resilience and help reduce risk and vulnerability so communities can anticipate, lessen the impact of, cope with and recover from disasters without compromising their long-term potential. For example, DRR activities help save lives and protect livelihoods by improving early warning systems and evacuation procedures and minimizing exposure to earthquakes and floods.
Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO)
Over the past four fiscal years, Congress has provided Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds to increase the level of funding for the primary accounts used to respond to international conflicts and disasters: International Disaster Assistance (IDA) and Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA). OCO was created to house temporary spending related to operations and programs in "frontline" states. In recent years, humanitarian funds from OCO have totaled nearly half of the overall available resources for MRA (42%) and IDA (51% in FY14). In FY15, OCO totaled 70% of both the IDA and MRA budgets.
These funds are critical to allow the U.S. to respond to humanitarian crises. However, InterAction and our members are concerned that so much spending in a temporary account puts humanitarian funding levels at risk as OCO funds decrease over time. Furthermore, we know that for many of the major humanitarian crises occurring around the world, such as Syria, there is no clear resolution in sight.
The Administration should work with Congress to incrementally move OCO humanitarian funding into the base IDA and MRA budgets. Doing so would reflect the true spending levels the U.S. has committed over the past several fiscal years to humanitarian response, and ensure that a major humanitarian funding shortfall won't arise should OCO funds be eliminated in future budget years.
Training to respond in Vietnam
With a yearly average of about 160 natural disasters, Vietnam is prone to cyclones and dangerous floods. The American Red Cross is working on a joint training program teaching residents to be better prepared.
In one training, an elderly woman holds tightly to a rope in the rain while a Vietnam Red Cross volunteer leads her to safety. Another woman holds up the line looking for her son, but Emergency Response Team members are trained to handle this.
That’s because this practice drill is part of a holistic school and community based disaster risk reduction program using curricula and master trainers provided by the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC). The program is funded in part by the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA).
A total of 121 central Vietnamese communes have teams ready to serve during an emergency. Each is provided supplies and equipment ranging from chainsaws and boats to megaphones and first aid kits. They practice annual emergency drills that include extinguishing fires, water and collapsed building rescues, first aid and evacuations.
Volunteers complete regular trainings to ensure they recall critical skills. Truly community events, residents act as distressed family members, injured survivors and onlookers. After the drills, the community gathers to discuss how they went.
Vo Van Cuong participated in a refresher exercise. His village is one of the most disaster-prone in the district. As a teenager in 1998, floods destroyed his village. Boats were overturned, houses flooded and his elderly neighbor perished.
“There were dead animals floating down the streets and the lack of sanitation lead to epidemics,” he said. “Now because of my training, I can help people. I can rescue my neighbors and help evacuate them to a safe place.”
Photo Credit: Niki Clark, American Red Cross