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UN humanitarian chief calls for aid revamp

Thursday - 7/24/2014, 1:20am  ET

TOKYO (AP) -- The U.N.'s top humanitarian official called Thursday for major changes in the delivery of relief, as funding falls short because of a growing number of conflicts and disasters.

"Needs are growing so fast, the funding cannot keep pace," said Valerie Amos, the undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs.

With crises in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, U.N. funding appeals have risen to a record $16.9 billion in 2014 to help more than 50 million people, up from $6 billion in 2004.

Amos, who is in Tokyo for a U.N.-organized meeting on improving relief in Asia, advocated a "step change" in the way humanitarian aid is delivered. One lesson from last year's Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, she said, is the need to involve local governments and organizations more and make the international community a last resort.

In an interview in Tokyo, she offered several ideas for improving aid delivery and addressed the crisis in Gaza:

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REINVENTING RELIEF

"You have a lot of countries that have been major donors to the humanitarian effort that have themselves been going through difficult economic times. So how do we deal with that? We need to have a step change in a number of areas. We need to review how we do humanitarian response, who does it, who's involved, how we equip communities ... to come in, step in, support each other, so that the global international response becomes almost the last resort. We need to invest a lot more in prevention, in managing risk. A tiny proportion of the money spent on humanitarian aid and on development goes into those disaster preparedness measures. It makes a huge difference in terms of lives saved but also in terms of the money spent on responding to crises later on.... We also need to look at innovation. How can we do our business differently? What are the practices that are emerging in other sectors that we can borrow or we can use to make humanitarian response more effective."

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LESSONS FROM HAIYAN

"I was in Tacloban (in the Philippines) and was astounded by the total, total devastation that existed. We've learnt a lot of things. We've learnt that those first few hours and days, we really need to get the logistics right. We were stuck for the first few hours, because although we had people on the ground, they just could not get through. So those first few hours and days are absolutely critical. We've learnt that we have to do more to support the people on the ground. Coming in as the international community must be the last resort, because it's the first responders, the people in the community, the local authorities, the local government who are there who know the terrain. The national local Red Cross Society, for example, were the people who were able to get to some of the most far-flung places more quickly. We know that when necessary we need to call in military assets which were so helpful with the Typhoon Haiyan response."

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GAZA

"Some kind of ceasefire and stop to the violence is absolutely vital.... People are running out of food, water is also a serious concern.... The majority of those killed in Gaza are women, children, men who have nothing to do with the fighting. That is the major concern that we have, that children, so many children have been killed as a result of the violence in the last few days. It's a terrible, terrible situation."


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