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Ottawa announces $10.8M to continue Red Cross rapid emergency response

VANCOUVER - The federal government has announced $10.8 million to continue a program that allows the Canadian Red Cross to quickly distribute emergency supplies abroad.

International Development Minister Christian Paradis announced the funding Thursday at an event in Vancouver with the secretary general of the Canadian Red Cross, two years after the agency reached an agreement to work more closely with Ottawa to respond to disasters.

In 2012, the federal government and the Canadian Red Cross announced the establishment the Enhanced Emergency Disaster Assistance Fund, which has been used to respond to 14 emergencies.

"It's continuing because it worked," said Paradis.

"Now, more than ever ... we cannot overlook what is happening in other countries."

The Red Cross manages the fund and distributes Canada's stockpile of relief supplies, currently stored in Mississauga, Ont., and, more recently, Dubai. Supplies are stored in two locations to ensure the Red Cross is able to respond to crises within 48 hours.

Conrad Sauve, secretary general and CEO of the Canadian Red Cross, said the fund is geared toward disasters that don't attract international attention and therefore don't bring in large donations.

For example, he said many Canadians may not be aware that the Red Cross is currently dealing with a cholera outbreak in Ghana, drought in Kenya and refugee movements in Ethiopia.

"These situations are not necessarily making the headlines, but there is certainly a great deal of need," he said.

The fund is in addition to the federal government's practice of matching donations to the Canadian Red Cross, with Ottawa contributing $3 for ever dollar Canadians give to respond to international emergencies.

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