London: The world`s first academy to train local aid workers and volunteers as first responders to disasters that occur in their own countries was launched in London on Monday.
The Humanitarian Leadership Academy aims to set up 10 centres to train 100,000 aid workers, health professionals and volunteers from 50 countries, particularly in areas prone to disaster and conflict.
The project could "revolutionise the entire humanitarian sector", according to Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council and chair of the Humanitarian Leadership Academy`s board.
"Investment in a new and better trained generation of humanitarian workers closer to where we find the greatest needs will bring development and sustainability to many of the world`s most fragile communities," Egeland said.
More aid workers are needed to deal with what Save the Children described as an "unprecedented number of crisis", including 50 million people who have been forced to flee their countries, the largest number of refugees since World War II.
Trained locals would be able to respond faster in the crucial first days after a disaster, according to Gareth Owen, humanitarian director of Save the Children UK.
"The usual way to respond is to mobilise our civil service of responders, usually from the West," Owen said.
"We have to get more frontline leadership out there in a local setting and support that in a better way with the wisdom we`ve accrued as international respondents," he said.
"Ultimately it`s about having the right people in the right place at the right time. Decisions made early on by people who are on the ground matter hugely."
The effort has received £20 million ($30 million, 27 million euros) in funding from Britain`s Department for International Development, out of £50 million it needs for its first five years.
Norway has contributed £500,000, while charity Save the Children has paid for the start-up costs and is hosting the academy.
The first training centres are to open in Kenya and the Philippines later this year.
Training will be available in a range of languages and the academy will spread best practice globally, according to Save the Children.
Aid agencies such as Oxfam and Action Against Hunger and academic bodies like the Open University and HCRI Manchester University are also collaborating on the project.