Bangladesh emergency response fund set up by Start Network

The Start Network is setting up a £10 million rapid response fund, which will respond early and fast to under the radar emergencies in Bangladesh.


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The Start Network is setting up a £10 million rapid response fund, which will respond early and fast to under the radar emergencies in Bangladesh.

It will be modelled on the successful Start Fund, which has enabled quick response to floods, earthquakes, droughts and refugee crises in 49 countries over the past three years. The new fund will be able to activate funding to respond to a crisis in Bangladesh within 72 hours of an alert, and will be accessible to national and international member NGOs that operate within the country.

Start Fund Bangladesh will be collectively owned and managed by its members, expected to extend to a growing number of national NGOs over its planned four-year life span.

Over that time, the Start Fund Bangladesh will gradually devolve to the Bangladesh level with the aim of it becoming an independent national fund.

The new fund is backed by the British government and the Start Network is working with the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) Bangladesh office.

Annemarie Poorterman, Project Manager at the Start Network, who is currently in Bangladesh working on the design and build phase, said:

“We want national and local organisations to sit with us at the design table from the beginning. The aim is to work towards giving national and local organisations direct access to its funding during the second and third years of the project. That means international, national and local NGOs all working together to respond to crises in Bangladesh within 72 hours. Over these next few months we’ll be designing the Start Fund collaboration in Bangladesh, and thinking about how we can localise it further in the coming years.”

Bangladesh, whose population is 164 million, is one of the most crisis-prone countries in the world.  It ranked fifth among the top countries at risk of disaster, according to the UN-affiliated World Risk Report index published last year.  Climate change has contributed to shorter cold seasons, to drought and to increasingly frequent and severe cyclones and flooding. It has also experienced a recent influx of refugees from neighbouring Myanmar. The global Start Fund has responded to four alerts within the country over the past three years, making available £1,550,000 to communities affected by crisis.

The new fund will be able to tackle more such crises, drawing on greater local expertise and knowledge. It will also be able to tap into work being done by the global Start Fund on crisis anticipation, aimed at responding to a foreseeable crisis before it hits.

Arshad Muhammad, Head of Programmes for CARE Bangladesh, said: “We thank Start Network and the British government for finding ways to work more closely than ever before with communities affected by crisis here in Bangladesh. This is an important moment for the development of humanitarian response.”

The new fund is intended to operate along similar lines to the global Start Fund, in which Start Network’s 42 members take swift collective decisions about when and how to intervene in below-the-radar emergencies:

  • Day 1: Immediately an alert is raised, all members are surveyed to gather first-hand information. Results are fed into discussions by a smaller group of agencies.
  • Day 2: If this group activates the fund, members are given a further 24 hours to submit proposals to tackle the crisis.
  • Day 3: Project selection based on peer review will be undertaken in country, as close to the crisis as possible, before disbursement of funds begins. Agencies have a maximum of 45 days to complete their projects.

The Start Fund, one of the success stories of the international aid system, has responded to more than 90 crises and helped 5.4 million people since it was launched in April 2014. Its remit is to respond to small-to-medium-scale emergencies or sudden spikes in humanitarian need that would otherwise be overlooked. It is supported by the governments of Britain, Ireland and the Netherlands, and by the European Commission’s humanitarian aid department.

DFID’s Bangladesh office, which was behind the original idea for the fund, gave formal approval to the design and build phase of the project earlier this month. Start Network has now begun recruitment of a programme manager to lead the small national team that will manage the new fund.

The Start Network aims to change how the humanitarian aid system works. Director, Sean Lowrie, said:

“This new national Start Fund is an important step towards putting funding and decision making into the hands of humanitarian groups closer to the communities most affected by disaster. That was one of the aims agreed at last year’s World Humanitarian Summit, and Start Network is working to deliver it.”