Over the past decade, the number of people reportedly affected by disasters globally increased by one-third; reported deaths were up 84%. If trends continue it is estimated that, by 2050, natural disasters could have a global cost of over $300 billion a year, and will be a key element in the failure to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. At the recent Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, Sir John Holmes, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, noted the challenge of ‘turning what is contained in the Hyogo Framework for Action into concrete, practical actions at every level … what we need to do is together advance the arguments which will actually support further investment in risk reduction and we need that further investment. We must share our success stories’ in order to make a life-saving difference for hundreds of millions of people who are increasingly vulnerable to disaster risk.

This edition of Humanitarian Exchange features articles on the topic of disaster risk reduction for humanitarian practitioners. Disaster risk reduction is the broad development and application of policies, strategies and practices to minimise vulnerabilities and disaster risks for affected communities, through prevention, mitigation and preparedness. An increasing body of knowledge and best practice has emerged on this topic, but there are still many challenges, not least the dynamically changing humanitarian context in which agencies must respond. Traditional humanitarian planning and response must factor in the impacts of a changing external environment including climate change, increased displacement and migration, urbanisation, HIV/AIDS and other potential pandemics, and engage with effective disaster risk reduction strategies to mitigate the negative effects of these problems. There is a need for better coordination between climate change, disasters and development communities, greater understanding of both global and local risks associated with climate change, and improved approaches to understand and respond to local vulnerabilities, while simultaneously addressing underlying complex and partly global processes.

This edition also presents articles on other subjects of concern to policy-makers and practitioners in the humanitarian sector: the role of Islamic charities, the analysis and integration of market factors in food security in West Africa and improving accountability to beneficiaries.