8.5.2. Disaster Relief
Because of the lack of insurance, disaster relief is the major input for disaster
recovery in many developing countries. After a disaster, the first relief usually
is provided by the national government in the form of assistance by the military,
the police, and other government services. Often, governments also act as the
insurer for uninsured damages in these cases. When the capacity of local disaster
relief institutions is exceeded, countries tend to call for help from international
institutions. In the period 1992-2000, a yearly average of US$330 million
was transferred from country to country for disaster aid (United Nations, 2000).
The institutional setting of international disaster relief is complicated.
Presently, 16 UN agencies have a mandate that allows them to work in emergency
situations. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA)
is supposed to coordinate efforts in disaster relief. The International Committee
of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent
Societies (IFRC-RCS) have a basis in international law. Médecins sans
Frontières (MSF) and OXFAM are examples of internationally operating
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), of which there are hundreds. In addition,
all types of local NGOs may be involved in the relief work, along with the national
government and local authorities. In a typical disaster situation, one has to
cope with a multitude of different agencies (Frerks et al., 1999). Donor
governments and agencies as well as international organizations provide the
funds; substantial amounts may be raised directly from the public at large.
The large amount of relief amount for cyclones in 1998 was largely a result
of Hurricane Mitch, which struck Central America in that year. In the same year,
Bangladesh and China were struck by very large flood disasters. The foregoing
numbers show that on an annual basis, international relief is in hundreds of
millions of dollars. This is a small number compared with total global damage
from natural disasters (tens of billions of dollars).