Emergency appeal to support co-ops devastated by floods and hurricanes

Fund to support long-term rebuild of co-operatives

An appeal to support co-operatives devastated by hurricanes and floods over the past few weeks has been launched by Co-operatives UK.

The Co-operatives UK appeal, which is supported by Co-op News, aims to help co-operatives in those affected countries with long-term reconstruction efforts. A £50,000 donation has already been pledged by the Co-op Group.

Hundreds of thousands of people across Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan are struggling to survive in the aftermath of the worst flooding to hit the region in decades.

More than 41 million people have been affected by the South Asia flood disaster, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Mud huts have disintegrated in the torrents of water that have flooded large areas of Bangladesh, southern Nepal, and northern India.

IFRC deputy regional director for Asia Pacific, Martin Faller, said: “More than five million people are struggling across South Asia after their homes have been damaged or destroyed. Whole villages have been swept away. We have a responsibility to help.”

In the Caribbean, Irma, the strongest Atlantic hurricane in more than a decade, has battered millions of people across half a dozen Caribbean nations and foreign territories.

The IFRC has said that nearly every building in Barbuda has been damaged or destroyed, while hundreds of thousands of people in Puerto Rico are without power, according to authorities. Further reports of destruction have been received from the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, as well as Saint Martin and St Barts (Saint Barthélemy), and St Kitts and Nevis.

“This is a major event unfolding in real time across the Caribbean,” said Elhadj As Sy, the secretary general of the IFRC. “The number of people directly exposed to the storm is growing every day. It is a catastrophe by any measure, and it could still get worse with the now imminent arrival of Hurricane José.”

The UK appeal will channel funds through the International Co-operative Alliance to enable long-term support to reach co-operatives in affected countries.

“Charities like the International Red Cross have stepped in to take immediate action and provide vital food, shelter and care,” said Co-operatives UK secretary general Ed Mayo. “But reconstruction in what are already poor countries, like Cuba and Bangladesh, will take a long time. Once the initial surge of aid drops away there will remain a dire need to rebuild housing, hospitals and economies.

“Co-operatives can play a key role in this economic development, as proved over the last two decades in disaster-torn areas. When the TV cameras leave and emergency relief dries up, it is local organisations like co-operatives and credit unions that are sustainable ways to meet people’s needs. Co-ops support new infrastructure, homes and livelihoods.”

Added Mr Mayo: “Acting in line with the sixth co-operative principle – co-operation among co-operatives – this initiative was prompted by Southern Co-op and supported by Co-op Group, which has already pledged £50,000 to kick-start the appeal.”

Steve Murrells, chief executive of the Co-op Group, said: “The hurricanes and floods in the Caribbean and south-east Asia have been truly devastating, with millions of lives affected. Immediate aid will hopefully help in the short-term but lives will need rebuilding for the long term also. This is where the co‑op sector can assist by providing the support needed to create effective and sustainable co-ops in those areas most heavily impacted and help rebuild these devastated communities.”

• To make a donation, visit: www.uk.coop/2017appeal

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