Over the last year, this project has proved out what humanitarian actors have long known intuitively -- that advanced preparedness in high risk emergency contexts makes humanitarian action swifter and more cost-effective when a crisis eventually hits. Early investment in preparedness drives a ripple effect of benefits beyond priming the immediate gears of humanitarian response. When humanitarian actors have sufficient resources to meet the prevalent humanitarian risks, they're able to stamp out escalating emergencies before they spiral out of control.
In practice, however, funding for emergency response often comes late once the spread of a crisis has already well outpaced existing support systems that might have extinguished an emergency in its first days. More lives are lost and the costs response balloons as the humanitarian system struggles to mount a larger and larger intervention.
Courtenay Cabot Venton, an economist who has worked with DFID and other humanitarian partners on issues of cost-effectiveness in emergency response, has an interesting article on this phenomenon taking place right now in Ethiopia as humanitarian funding in response to a severe drought has dwindled while the affected population figures have grown from 3 to 8.3 million people. Venton calculates that a late response would cost the humanitarian system an additional $1 billion, or an additional $8 million for every day of delay. These costs drive further losses to the population, not just in terms of morbidity and mortality, but in lost economic productivity across the wider local economy.
For Venton's full article in the Huffington Post, please see here.