New form of insurance to help drought-hit African nations

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Rome, Aug 7 (IANS/AKI) Humanitarian agencies are setting up innovative climate risk insurance policies to shield up to 1.3 million people in West Africa from catastrophic drought in Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and the Gambia, the United Nations World Food Programme said in a statement.

These policies will release funds to assist vulnerable communities threatened by drought before it reaches catastrophic levels, WFP said.

Collectively, the purchased policies could release a total of $49.5 million across the five countries. WFP and the Start Network have purchased these “replica” climate risk insurance policies from the African Union’s Africa Risk Capacity, complementing those bought by national governments.

The initiative, known as ‘ARC Replica’ allows governments and humanitarian agencies to quickly access and channel funds to vulnerable people in the event of an extreme drought.

This financing helps to protect livestock and other assets, and to supplement feeding programmes for undernourished children. To ensure assistance reaches people in need quickly, Start Network and WFP have worked with each insured country to identify how resources and assistance can most efficiently be delivered.

“Many developing countries face the risk of disasters without being sufficiently prepared for them. When a disaster strikes, humanitarian organisations often respond too late, leaving affected populations vulnerable to further risk,” KfW Development Bank project manager, Veronika Bertram-Hummer said.

“We are very pleased to finance ARC Replica and work with the Start Network and the WFP to improve national preparedness and risk management efforts which ultimately allow us to help people affected by drought in West Africa and the Sahel.”

Through ARC Replica, the Start Network and WFP accompany governments in improving risk management practices, working together to strengthen safety nets and climate protection to vulnerable populations.

ARC and ARC Replica use pre-agreed triggers like rainfall satellite data which allow for rapid response involving pre-agreed activities such as cash transfers and the distribution of food and nutrition supplements. The aim is to avoid situations where families take children out of school, migrate or sell livestock and seeds before the next agricultural season.

Pay-outs through the initiatives are made as early as two weeks after a failed harvest – months earlier than traditional humanitarian resources are made available. Aid agencies typically depend on funding that is provided by donors after a crisis has already happened and following humanitarian appeals, meaning that many lives and livelihoods can already have been lost, the WFP statement said.

–IANS/AKI

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