EDITORIAL: More needs to be done on disaster preparedness

Tuesday October 13 2020

 

Today, October 13, is International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDDR), so designated by the UN General Assembly to encourage governments and citizenries “to build more disaster-resilient communities and nations.” IDDR started as part of the International Decade (1990s) for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) as designated the Assembly on December 22, 1989.

On December 21, 2009, the General Assembly dropped the epithet ‘natural’ from IDNDR – thus widening disaster risk reduction programmes to include ‘unnatural/man-made’ disasters.

Efforts at disaster risk reduction include prevention, mitigation and preparedness – and also promoting a culture of disaster risk reduction at the national, continental and global levels.

These efforts are intended to decrease the loss of human life and property destruction, as well as social and economic disruptions caused by earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, landslides, volcanic eruptions, droughts, locust infestations and other natural disasters. Man-made disasters include heavily-polluted skies, water sources and other environmental disasters resulting from greenhouse gas emissions, etc.

October 13 is, therefore, an opportunity to assess the progress being made in reducing disaster risks that can result in untold losses in lives, livelihoods and health. In a sense, the annual observance on October 13 is a vehicle that can be used to promote a universal culture of disaster risks reduction. All the foregoing is in line with the 2015-2030 Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction which was adopted at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in the Japanese city of Sendai on March 18, 2015.

The Sendai Framework outlines seven targets and four priorities for action to reduce existing disaster risks – and prevent new ones.

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Understanding disaster risk

The priorities are: understanding disaster risk; strengthening disaster risk governance to manage risks; investing in disaster reduction for resilience, and enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response – and, so, “to ‘Build Back Better’ in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.”

At the end of it all, Sendai aims to achieve substantial reduction of disaster risks, losses in lives, livelihoods and health, as well as “the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries over the next 15 years,” counting from 2015. The Sendai target this year (2020) is to substantially increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies designed to functionally strengthen disaster risk governance and management.

The theme this year for the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction is about conveying the message that many disasters can be avoided or prevented. But, this is if only disaster risk reduction strategies (read ‘good disaster risk governance’) have been put in place to manage and reduce existing levels of risk – and to avoid the creation of new risk(s). Tanzania is one of 16 African countries benefiting from the ‘Building Disaster Resilience to Natural Hazards in sub-Saharan Africa Programme.’

Jointly funded by the EU, the National Disaster Management Authority, UNDRR and the CIMA Research Foundation, the programme has developed risk profiles for floods and droughts at the national level for the 16 countries.

If nothing else, this means that Tanzania is not left out in the global struggle to reduce disaster risks every which way.