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New disaster forecast to save lives

ROME/PARIS. December 02, 2016. The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) and Red Cross societies say a forecast-based approach to humanitarian disasters would release funds for preparedness and response before the crisis occurs.

The German Red Cross (GRC), together with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said they have successfully tested the new model with the WFP's Food Security Climate Resilience Facility (FoodSECuRE) in Uganda that has saved time, lives and money.

Increasing climate disasters, humanitarian needs and short-term financing mechanisms mean that new approaches are urgently required, according to the U.N. The WFP FoodSECuRE model that blends scientific forecasting with flexible long-term financing is the latest answer.

German Red Cross  Lufthansa CargoThe WFP said its 2015 FoodSECuRE analysis in Sudan and Niger showed that using a forecast-based system lowered the cost of the humanitarian response by 50 percent.

"The humanitarian system is increasingly stretched financially and operationally. More weather disasters require responses in more places and for longer periods," explained WFP executive director Ertharin Cousin. "Turning the FoodSECuRE tool into a meaningful global facility will require mobilizing US$400 million," she added.

In Uganda recently, funds were released from the GRC preparedness fund to allow the Uganda Red Cross to distribute items based on a flood forecast. As a result Red Cross volunteers distributed water purification tablets and flood protection items to hundreds of vulnerable families prior to the subsequent event.

Currently the GRC coordinates the German Federal Foreign Office's Action Plan on Climate with forecast-based financing in Bangladesh, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mozambique, Nepal, Peru and the Philippines.

In a related move, Lufthansa Cargo and the GRC have signed an agreement to simplify and accelerate the preparation of aid flights to more than 50 countries where the GRC operates.

"We are really delighted to have Lufthansa Cargo on board, a partner we can rely on in a disaster", said GRC secretary general Christian Reuter.

Lufthansa Cargo CEO Peter Gerber expressed a similar sentiment and added: "When every minute counts, strong partners who can work together optimally are needed." (right of picture with Christian Reuter).

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