How helping animals in disasters helps the poor and most vulnerable, and builds resilience
More than one billion of the world’s poor depend on animals for their livelihoods and food security. Whether it is cows, goats and chickens that provide food and income, oxen or buffalo that plow the fields or donkeys that greatly reduce women’s workloads, the wellbeing of these animals is fundamentally intertwined with the wellbeing of the people who own them.
For more than 50 years, World Animal Protection has been building the capacity of local communities and governments to protect their animals when disaster strikes. We have full-time specially-trained staff that help animals survive emergency situations all over the world. When the emergency phase ends, we help build local capacity in disaster preparedness and risk reduction to ensure that lives and livelihoods will be protected when the next disaster strikes.
A recent UN Food and Agriculture Organization study of 78 disasters found that smallholder farmers and pastoralists absorbed 22% of the economic costs of natural disasters yet received less than 5% of post-disaster aid. Farm animal mortality accounted for 36% of those losses, costing the sector $11 billion (USD). Animals are often forgotten during disasters due to a chronic failure to recognize their economic and cultural importance to the people affected. That failure is reflected in limited funding and inadequate coordination for animal protection when emergencies occur. In fact, animal protection is completely absent from Canada’s international humanitarian and development policies.
We are very encouraged by the Canadian government’s commitment to refocus our development assistance on helping the poorest and most vulnerable. For the 800 million livestock keepers that live on less than $2 a day, protecting the health, welfare and productivity of their livestock is critically important to reducing their vulnerability.
This government’s commitment of $2.65 billion to help developing countries mitigate climate change is also welcome news that we hope leads to more emphasis on disaster preparedness and risk reduction. The regions identified as the most vulnerable to climate change, such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, are also regions where farmers rely the most on livestock for income and livelihood, and where livestock are expected to contribute more to food security and better nutrition.
One year ago, Canada agreed to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which recognizes the importance of saving livelihoods as well as lives. In order to protect peoples’ livelihoods during disasters, we need to protect their productive assets. Livestock can help people recover during a disaster, providing food and income when crops are destroyed and manure and draft power to help crops recover. The loss of livestock not only represents a loss of income but also a loss of family savings and investment over many years.
Studies show that relatively simple and affordable measures to protect animals before and in the immediate aftermath of a disaster provides high economic returns. Saving animals in disasters would save lives and livelihoods as well as foreign aid dollars. It is time to include animals in Canada’s humanitarian and development policies and funding framework.
For more information, visit www.worldanimalprotection.ca/drr
Legislative and Public Affairs Manager
World Animal Protection