Broker looks to drive humanitarian cover amid disaster relief crises

A leading insurance broker has created a new division which will look to find funding and risk solutions for the growing need for humanitarian relief.

Amid fears that the regime change coupled with an ongoing drought in Afghanistan will create a new humanitarian crisis Howden, has announced it has appointed its first Disaster Relief Executive. Caroline Birch has spent nearly 20 years working in the field with the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations, and the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO).

Her remit will be to use her extensive on-the-ground humanitarian aid experience to develop more sustainable models for funding charities’ responses to natural disasters.

Howden said during her career Birch has helped to plan and deliver humanitarian aid operations in response to complex emergencies worldwide, most recently supporting refugees and those affected by natural disasters in Pakistan and Iran. Previous assignments have seen her working with teams responding to natural disasters and conflict across Africa, Asia and Europe.

Charlie Langdale, Head of Climate Risk and Resilience at Howden commented: “We’re working with risk transfer and catastrophe modelling experts to develop solutions that have the potential to change the way disaster relief is funded. To have, within the team, someone with such extensive and in-depth experience of responding to crises will help us to design the solutions in such a way that the funds reach those who need them as quickly and effectively as possible.”

Howden was part of the team of partners from across the private and humanitarian sectors who launched the world’s first catastrophe bond for volcano-related disasters earlier this year. The bond covers 10 volcanoes across three continents, which were selected for the significant humanitarian threat they represent.

Langdale continued: “We’re looking at how we can apply a similar approach as the volcano catastrophe bond for other types of disaster relief. Caroline’s advice will be invaluable in this process; I’m delighted that she has chosen to join us.”

Birch said: “The need for humanitarian response funding is only going to continue to grow as climate change triggers more natural disasters and conflicts over dwindling resources develop. In addition to the loss of life, more people are losing their means of survival, are driven from their homes in increasing numbers, and are forced to remain displaced for longer periods of time.  As traditional funding sources struggle to keep pace with ever-increasing needs, the use of alternative provision through risk transfer could be just what it is needed to enable humanitarian organisations to continue their vital work.”

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