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UK must better anticipate disasters

Britain must be better prepared for dealing with humanitarian disasters in the third world, international development secretary Andrew Mitchell has said.

Climate change and population growth were making events such as flooding, earthquakes and war “more intense and frequent”, he told the Commons.

The government needed to establish stronger agreements with countries such as China and Brazil when it came to providing relief, Mitchell said.

His comments came as the government said it would implement the findings of a review by Liberal Democrat former leader Lord Ashdown in to how the UK responded to events such as last year’s flooding in Pakistan.

Mitchell told the Commons: “It is not enough for us simply to pick up the pieces once a disaster has struck.

“We need to help vulnerable communities prepare for disasters and to become more resilient. This is where we can have most impact, where we can prevent lives from being lost and families from being torn apart.

“We must anticipate and be better prepared for disasters. We will work with governments and the international system to become better at understanding where climate change, seismic activity, seasonal fluctuations and conflict will lead to humanitarian disasters.”

Mitchell said his department planned to go further than the recommendations set out in Lord Ashdown’s report.

These include helping developing countries to install more cyclone warning alarms, build public shelters and ensure hospitals and schools can withstand earthquakes.

The government will also help establish a global risk register so aid can be targeted at countries most likely to be affected by a natural or man-made crisis.

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