A charity headquartered in Scotland is to play a key role in a new network aimed at speeding up the UK's response to humanitarian crises around the world, it has been announced.
Disaster relief agency Mercy Corps, which has decades of experience responding to major global emergencies, will form part of the UK Government's Rapid Response Facility.
The new system aims to reduce red tape, allowing the charity - and around 30 other organisations with experience in this field - to access funding within hours and reach disaster-hit people as quickly as possible.
The Edinburgh-based agency's selection for the new project was announced by International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell.
He said that following a disaster, equipment, experts and aid are too often tied up with paperwork rather than being immediately deployed.
It is hoped that the new scheme will mobilise life saving support in the critical hours following a humanitarian crisis, improving the UK's response to major international crises such as famine, floods and earthquakes.
Mr Mitchell said: "Mercy Corps is one of the very best performing disaster response agencies and plays a critical role in the UK's life-saving work to help people struck by disaster. The UK is a world leader in this field and I'm glad Mercy Corps is part of this crucial next step with the UK Government.
"We need our best experts, equipment and aid on the ground as quickly as possible after a disaster, not tied up in red tape. They need to be able to do their job in that vital window of 72 hours, to save as many lives as possible."
According to the Westminster Government, Mercy Corps has helped more than 1.5 million people survive the drought and famine that hit the Horn of Africa last year.
Teams in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia responded with a range of assistance, including clean water for almost 500,000 people, food and treatment for 42,000 malnourished children and emergency cash to allow 26,000 families to buy the essentials they needed to survive.