The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, best known for its very visible work in short-term humanitarian disasters, has made a dramatic shift to the longer view - where disease is the great killer.

Releasing its latest annual report this week, the Societies say that the death toll from infectious diseases such as AIDS, malaria, respiratory diseases and diarrhoea is 160 times greater than the number killed in last year's natural disasters, including the massive earthquakes in Turkey, floods in Venezuela and cyclones in India.

According to Didier Cherpitel, Secretary General of the IFRC & RC, writing in the introduction to the report : "When disaster strikes... community care falters as families are torn apart. State systems crack, and the gap between needs and service delivery dramatically widens. Filling this gap in times of disaster, though, often means that as the threat of disaster recedes, emergency responders...

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