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What is disaster relief and disaster recovery?

The difference between disaster relief and disaster recovery can broadly be defined based upon differing timeframes
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© CIFAL Newcastle, University of Newcastle, Australia

The difference between disaster relief and disaster recovery can broadly be defined based upon timeframes.

  • Relief is immediate support provided to minimise suffering and provide basic human needs such as food, water and shelter.
  • Recovery is focused on restoring quality of life and community services to pre-disaster levels.

Disaster relief

The disaster relief phase involves providing direct assistance through measures to alleviate suffering and often by providing financial assistance to people who are impacted. Relief can also include counselling and other support services.

Relief is significant because it is critical to engage with the impacted community at a time when people are most at-risk. Activities in the relief phase include evacuations, establishment of relief centres, providing temporary shelter and first aid.

During the relief phase, emergency services are critical and, usually in the case of bushfires, involves individual and community volunteers who can serve and protect people and property.

Such organisations in Australia include Army Reserves and state-based services like the Rural Fire Service (RFS) and Country Fire Authority (CFA).

Key stakeholders that engage in this phase include fire services, police services etc. Relief actions like providing water supplies and temporary housing often continue to be vital for months after immediate relief begins.

Disaster recovery

Recovery is about restoring or improving the livelihoods and health of people who live in a disaster-affected community, as well as recovering them economically, physically, socially and environmentally, plus cultural events.

The United Nations office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) has established the Sendai Framework for disaster risk reduction. The targets of this framework are to reduce mortality of disasters, reduce the number of people affected by disaster globally, reduce economic losses and reduce damage to infrastructure.

© CIFAL Newcastle, University of Newcastle, Australia
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Bushfires: Response, Relief and Resilience

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