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Disaster relief and support programs

Learn about natural disaster relief and support programs.
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Disaster support programs offer essential assistance for affected communities.

Relief programs are crucial for providing immediate aid and addressing urgent needs after a natural disaster, fostering long-term recovery and community resilience. The nature of these programs vary across countries, influenced by unique financial, geographical, social, and political conditions in each nation and region.

In a country like Australia, floods frequently occur at a very localised level. However, given the resources Australia possesses as a developed country, there is ample recognition and dedication to directed aid, even for small-scale local disasters. Unfortunately, this is not often the case for most developing lower-income countries.
Dr Hemant Pullabhotla, (2023)

Support programs in developed countries

Developed countries offer extensive disaster relief and support programs both during and after disasters, typically relying on domestic sources rather than international assistance. Different states and territories within a country may maintain their unique legislative frameworks dedicated to emergency management and disaster response. These legal provisions outline specific protocols, resource allocation, and coordination mechanisms tailored to the respective needs and challenges faced by each region.

Support programs in Australia

In Australia, authorised officials, such as the Premier, Chief Minister, or State Emergency Coordinator, have the authority to declare a ‘state of emergency’ or disaster. The responsibility for coordinating and planning the response to any emergency or disaster within a jurisdiction lies with the state or territory government.

While initially bearing the main financial responsibility for disaster recovery and relief, state and territory governments receive assistance from the Australian federal government through specific programs. The Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements 2018 (DRFA) allocate funds to states and territories, easing the financial challenges of responding to natural disasters and delivering urgent financial aid to affected communities.

Support programs in developing countries

Contrary to the developed countries, where national resources are often sufficient to support the response and recovery from disasters, developing countries mostly rely on international aid to response to and recover from disasters.

International aid

The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) is a forum within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that focuses on international development. The forum currently consists of 32 member countries that are major providers of official development assistance (ODA). The committee serves as a platform for these countries to coordinate their development policies, share information, and collaborate on issues related to aid effectiveness, development strategies, and global development goals.

Based on data from the Development Assistance Committee (DAC), the majority of relief has been allocated to Africa (40 percent), followed by Asia (35 percent), and Europe (19 percent) (Strömberg, 2007).

Explore the data

Explore the infographics to learn more about the DAC members’ contributions, amounting to a total of USD 204 billion in the year 2022. It’s worth mentioning that DAC’s funding isn’t exclusively allocated for natural disasters but extends to various emergencies.

Pay attention to the data details and various presentation methods. For example, when reviewing data on contributing countries, the United States stands out as the top contributor with a contribution of 55.3 USD billion. However, upon evaluating the Gross National Income (GNI) percentage and the UN target for each country, it becomes evident that the US is no longer among the top contributors.

In the context of international aid organisations, key players include the Red Cross, The United Nations (UN), OXFAM, and UNICEF. These organisations provide rapid emergency relief, including shelter, medical aid, and food distribution, to developing countries facing natural disasters.

Prioritising water and sanitation services and conducting search and rescue operations, they also engage in long-term recovery efforts, community preparedness programs, and psychosocial support, aiming to empower communities and enhance resilience against future disasters. However, it’s worth noting that there is currently no comprehensive source of data on international aid contributions from these donors.

Watch and reflect

Watch the following video featuring James, a Recovery Officer with the Australian Red Cross. Consider James’s perspectives on community-led recovery and share your thoughts in the comments section.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.


Strömberg, David (2007) ‘Natural Disasters, Economic Development, and Humanitarian Aid’, The Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 21, no. 3, 2007, pp. 199–222. JSTOR, accessed on 26 September 2023

© Deakin University
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Natural Disaster Recovery and Management

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