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Is it time to devise a faster response to slow onset disasters?

Source(s):  Devex

By Kelli Rogers


Establishing community-level baseline indicators such as access to safe water, how many meals people are eating per day, what type of food they have in their meals and how many seeds they have for the next harvesting season could help identify the most vulnerable groups and allow quicker response to a disaster like drought, Castell noted.

But overall, there are already clear triggers for slow onset disasters and especially droughts — such as the prices of basic commodities or sale of cattle as assets — though they exist mainly in geographical contexts the humanitarian response community is already familiar with, such as the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, according to Schopp.

“It might be time to cast the net wider in terms of monitoring if climate change is going to affect more countries,” he said.


Their team is currently working to identify indicators to clearly mark when to move from watching a situation to a “warning” phase and finally an “act” phase — although a situation could move from watch to warn or even from watch immediately to act, Sackett said. At Mercy Corps, these moments are referred to as “decision gates.”

“Figuring out what the thresholds are for when you move between those phases … We see it, agency wide, as extremely important,” Sackett said

Castell noted it might even be time to define an additional type of humanitarian crises to build in better slow onset response. Investing millions of dollars to lift people out of poverty and having them drawn back in is a humanitarian emergency, slow onset or not.

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  • Publication date 05 Jan 2017

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