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Why is it often the poorest people affected by disasters?

Disasters and emergencies caused by natural hazards (e.g. floods, earthquakes or cyclones) or conflict often impact the poorest people the hardest. Poverty makes communities more vulnerable to disasters by reducing their ability to cope when one strikes. Enabling communities to cope with disasters requires an immediate response when lives and property are threatened, along with efforts to deal with underlying issues such as poverty and inequality that make people vulnerable.

What happens immediately after a major disaster?

  • After any major disaster local communities and emergency services in the country affected respond immediately.

  • If the disaster is too big for them to cope alone, their government may request help from other countries or the United Nations. At the same time, humanitarian agencies already working in the country will quickly gather information and requests for help from local people.

  • International humanitarian agencies send specialist disaster assessment teams to the affected country to work with local authorities to decide how best the world can support the country.

  • Once the initial assessment is made, governments and humanitarian agencies, as well as the United Nations, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), provide equipment, medicines, food, shelter and people to help the country cope with the disaster.

How does New Zealand respond to disasters overseas?

In emergency situations NGOs are often able to reach those in need quickly and effectively through community partnerships. They are frequently the first on the ground in the disaster zone. A number of Aotearoa New Zealand based NGOs respond regularly to disaster situations around the world.  

NGOs may deploy their own experienced personnel to the disaster zone to assist those on the ground with initial needs assessments and relief activities. In the days and weeks that follow a disaster, these teams work alongside local organisations to ensure that people affected by the disaster have access to food, clean water and emergency shelter as quickly as possible. 

New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) leads the New Zealand Government’s response to humanitarian crises in developing countries, whether these arise from natural disasters or conflict. NZAID works with a variety of organisations when responding to disasters.

In the longer term, the reconstruction of disaster-affected areas in developing countries often takes several years. The rebuilding of homes, businesses and roads is done by local people often with outside assistance. Aotearoa New Zealand based NGOs and NZAID often assist with long term reconstruction efforts and work to reduce poverty in developing countries that can make people vulnerable to disasters.

Enabling communities to cope with disasters requires an immediate response when lives and property are threatened, along with efforts to deal with issues such as poverty that make people vulnerable.

How can YOU respond?

The Make a Donation section provides links to current appeals from our member organisations.

The Get Involved section lists organisations that you can contact to offer your skills during a disaster.

The Speak Out section provides information about ways to advocate about issues facing the poor within the world.

The Actions To Avoid page outlines a few guidelines on how not to respond to a humanitarian disaster.