Speeding-Up Mitigation Measures. by M.E.Reza

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Reflecting upon the recent International Day for Disaster Reduction (14th October 2009), one cannot help feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenges and tasks involved. It’s an ongoing race against greater losses from natural disasters. Economic losses resulting from natural disasters have increased tremendously, averaging from US$75.5 billion in the 1960s to US$659.9 billion in the 1990s. An average of 326 climate disasters occurred annually from 200 to 2004 according to the United Nations Development Programme report, which affected more that 200 million people, mostly in Asia. So, where do we go from here?

The climate is changing and the disasters getting more frequent. Worst still, the disasters are getting deadlier. There would be more intense typhoons, flooding, droughts and forest fires because of climate change. You can bet on it. Observe the trend and the numbers of disasters, the magnitude of their force and damage. See the fearful patterns, not only in the Asia Pacific region but also in Central America. The linkage between climate change and increasing disasters are obvious. Inevitably governments should be better prepared and speed up measures to mitigate their impact. Most recent call for expediting implementation of mitigations measures were expressed by none other than the UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes.(i)

Recently, several disasters have hit the Asian region including devastating floods in the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Nepal, affecting millions. Holmes who is also the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator said that 99 per cent of those killed by natural disasters were in the Asia Pacific region. Hence disaster prone countries are encouraged to spend one tenth of their development funds on efforts to reduce disaster risks. Comparatively, the international community spent US$12 billion on disaster relief in 2008. Allocating such an amount into disaster risk reduction against spending on response and even development would be a good investment. Incidentally, the UN-International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN-ISDR) emphatically stress this important step through its slogan “ Invest Today for a Better Tomorrow”.

The severity of natural disasters’ impact on lives and livelihoods as well as the development of nations could no longer be ignored and disaster risks should be taken seriously. Marginal investment in incorporating hazard resistance could have protected property and assets. Without appropriate mitigating measures, development achieved over years of investment could be completely wiped out in a natural disaster. Since vulnerability rest with the communities at the ground level, building effectiveness of disaster management at the community level is of utmost importance as local needs and risks could be adequately assessed and managed.

It is incumbent then for those states affected by these risks to reinforce their commitment to disaster risk reduction through continuing their efforts toward implementing the priority areas of the Hyogo Framework for Action. In addressing disaster management, putting into place policy, infrastructure and operational mechanisms to ensure coordination and partnership with all pertinent stakeholders thus become essential. With the rising magnitude of natural disasters growing beyond the capacity of affected countries to manage it, the changing humanitarian environment calls for comprehensive collaborative and collective action.

A welcomed development in this area is the recent launch of the International Society for Integrated Disaster Risk Management (the IDRiM Society) at the 9th IIASA-DPRI Forum on Integrated Disaster Risk Management (IDRiM Forum) in Kyoto, Japan. (7). The Society’s main objective is to promote interdisciplinary research on integrated disaster risk management modalities for efficient and equitable disaster risk reduction by people, businesses and governments exposed to the natural disasters.(ii)


(i) IRIN. Climate change worsening disasters, says UN. 16 October 2009. (ii) PreventionWeb. Launch of the IDRiM Society for Integrated Disaster Risk Management. 10 November 2009. Integrated Disaster Risk Management Society (IDRiM)


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