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Asia to get new UN emergency response centre for disasters

25 February 2010 – With natural disasters on the rise, the United Nations is opening its first ever Asian emergency response centre to provide pre-positioned humanitarian aid within 48 hours of a crisis striking, following an agreement signed today with Malaysia.

“We applaud the Government of Malaysia’s visionary decision to host this critically important hub to support all nations within the Asia-Pacific region with rapid response capacity,” UN World Food Programme (WFP) Deputy Executive Director Amir Abdulla said on signing the accord with Foreign Affairs Secretary Tan Sri Rastam Mohd Isa.

The centre will be the fifth Humanitarian Response Depot (HRD) that WFP has set up around the world in the past decade on behalf of the entire humanitarian community to offer cost-effective storage, training, and logistics for deploying critically needed items within 48 hours of a disaster occurring.

In addition to hosting the HRD, Malaysia has agreed to build offices, warehouses, and a training centre at Subang military base, about an hour outside Kuala Lumpur, the capital, as well as contribute $1 million a year towards running costs. WFP will also seek support from other Asian countries.

“Given the increase in natural disasters around the world, and particularly in Asia, the Subang base will be vital to saving lives in a crisis and ensuring WFP is able to do its job on the ground,” WFP Regional Director for Asia Kenro Oshidari said.

The agency established its first HRD in Brindisi, Italy, in 2000. Based on this model, WFP created three more such centres in 2006 – in the United Arab Emirates for the Middle East, Panama for Latin America, and Ghana for Africa. Although the bases are designed for regional specific responses, all are equipped to respond to crises anywhere in the world.

HRDs played a critical role in the days following the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Not only were assets deployed from the Panama HRD, but due to the sheer scale of the crisis, Dubai, Brindisi, and Ghana all released supplies in coordinated rotations to assist in the response.

WFP said the importance of HRDs cannot be overstated. In 2009 there were 245 natural disasters around the world, of which 224 were weather-related.

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