Moroni/Geneva, 26 September 2017—Thousands of lives in the Union of Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles remain at risk due to the region’s increasing vulnerability to natural disasters, including cyclones, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis. This, combined with the fact that global humanitarian funding is dwindling, is further evidence of the need to invest in preparedness and in local humanitarian capacity.

“The devastating humanitarian and economic impact of natural disasters in the Indian Ocean countries will only worsen with time, unless we double down on investments in resilience and preparedness,” said Mr Tadateru Konoé, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), during a visit to Comoros, during which he also met leaders of the National Red Cross Societies of Mauritius, Seychelles and Madagascar.

“More efforts should be made to boost domestic resource mobilization, building community resilience, and country-level policy dialogue between governments and local actors such Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.”

Recurrent disasters in the island states make it harder for communities to build wealth and prosperity, and can cripple national economies. In 2013, about 15 natural disasters in the Union of Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles and Zanzibar cased over US $250 million in damages. The region’s largest nation, Madagascar, is one of the most economically and geographically affected countries in the world from natural disasters, according to the World Bank.

In March 2017, over 80 people were killed and tens of thousands displaced in Madagascar when Cyclone Enawo battered the island. The Malagasy Red Cross Society and the Indian Ocean Regional Intervention Platform (PIROI), responded to the cyclone by mobilizing 24 disaster response teams as well as nearly 900 volunteers, many of whom had already been dispatched to communities ahead of the cyclone to provide early warning messages and safety tips. After the cyclone, the volunteers provided first aid, medical consultations, psychosocial support and tons of relief items to displaced families in evacuation centres.

Their response is evidence of the value of local humanitarian capacity, and of the need to increase investment in such capacity.

“Local actors like the Red Cross and Red Crescent are there before, during and after crises,” added Mr Konoé. “They are the perfect vehicle for providing effective humanitarian response, and for helping communities to become more resilient and less reliant on external support.”