Budget cuts threaten disaster response: Oxfam

Image from an Oxfam page of a woman and a child in Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam. Photo by Philippe Metois.

Image from an Oxfam page of a woman and a child in Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam. Photo by Philippe Metois.

The looming cuts to aid in next week’s federal budget pose a risk to the ability of aid agencies to prepare for and respond to disasters, according to aid agency Oxfam.

Oxfam is currently responding to the worst earthquake in Nepal for 80 years, the devastation caused in Vanuatu by Cyclone Pam, and is still helping communities rebuild their lives after Typhoon Haiyan in The Philippines.

Oxfam Australia’s chief executive Dr Helen Szoke said that Australian aid had helped Oxfam to become a proven humanitarian responder, enabling it to deliver quality humanitarian response around the world in emergencies such as Nepal.

‘Sustainable, predictable funding to NGOs makes us more capable of quick response, particularly if we have long-term development and disaster preparedness programs already in the country – we can then be much more efficient in delivering immediate assistance,’ Dr Szoke said.

‘It will be difficult for aid agencies like ours to prepare communities for natural disasters and to respond to them when they happen if the $1 billion in aid cuts is not reversed.

‘In Vanuatu when Cyclone Pam hit, we were already on the ground working with communities and the government to prepare for and coordinate our immediate response.’

Dr Szoke said the federal government was planning a budget that would deliver massive cuts to Australian aid that would set the country on a path to deliver the lowest level of aid in our nation’s history.

‘Not only will we see cuts to long-term aid programs that provide safe water, get kids into school and provide the boost people need to turn their lives around, we will also be less ready to respond when disaster strikes,’ Dr Szoke said.

‘Australia is surrounded by poorer nations – 18 of our closest neighbours are developing countries.

‘In an interconnected world, their prosperity and security is our prosperity and security. We must not abandon them.’

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