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Posts Tagged ‘Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters’

Conflicts causing deaths presents another data dilemma for mortality statisticians.

Posted by African Press International on August 18, 2013

BANGKOK, 16 August 2013 (IRIN) – Varied death tolls emerging from Egypt’s latest clashes are a reminder that obtaining mortality statistics in emergencies is still a disputed, complicated and, at times, politicized task. But tallied correctly, researchers say mortality data can b oost aid efficacy and improve funding decisions.

“Funding to save people, in the aftermath, is driven by death tolls,” said Debarati Guha-Sapir, director of the Brussels-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), noting that death tolls are also a good indicator for survivors who need life-saving assistance.

Unlike mortality data from natural disasters, the number of dead from armed conflict can be used for political purposes and thus become subject to manipulation or misuse, according to CRED, which has maintained an “emergency events” database on the occurrence and effects of more than 18,000 mass disasters worldwide from 1900 to the present.

The politics of numbers

In Egypt’s current political crisis, death tolls have differed wildly depending on the source. In the hours following the forcible clearing of a mass sit-in of Muslim Brotherhood supporters by government forces on 14 August, the Brotherhood’s initial death toll was 500, while state TV said four people had been killed.

The government’s toll has since risen to more than 600 while the opposition’s toll is more than three times as high.

Many of the dead in Egypt were taken to makeshift hospitals run by the Brotherhood movement itself, which made outside verification of the figures difficult. The official death count is based only on bodies that passed through a hospital.

Darfur

Sudan’s Darfur conflict, which broke out 10 years ago and for which a ceasefire was signed in 2010, has generated a significant debate on death counts. The UN estimates some 300,000 died, while Khartoum puts the number closer to 10,000. In 2006 the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) published an analysis of mortality estimates from Darfur to examine the methodology behind death tallies.

In Darfur lack of access to some regions of the conflict, inaccurate population data and varied manipulations of baseline mortality rates (death rates in times of non-crisis) led to data shortcomings and disputed death estimates, the analysis concluded.

The US Department of State reported that between March 2003 and January 2005 a total of 98,000 to 181,000 people died, while five other studies produced estimates ranging up to nearly 400,000 people between February 2003 and August 2005. The GAO study judged none of the death tolls accurate, although it noted some estimates were more reliable than others.

A recent analysis (2010) of mortality estimates in Darfur based on retrospective mortality surveys estimated that the overall number of “excess” deaths (those attributable to crisis conditions and not just direct conflict) in Darfur between early 2003 and end of 2008 was some 300,000 people.

However, the authors acknowledged that the limits of data and problems over its interpretation that plagued earlier death tolls, persisted in theirs.

Syria

The Syrian conflict presents another data dilemma for mortality statisticians.

In a complex armed conflict as is the case of Syria, fatalities can be at the centre of political controversy with each party to the conflict wanting to downplay civilian deaths.

In August 2011 the UN Human Rights Council established the Independent International Commission of Inquiry to investigate human rights and international law violations in Syria. But lack of access hampered the commission’s efforts, whose investigations have been forced to rely primarily on interviews with people in camps and hospitals in countries neighbouring Syria.

“Initially, we adopted a methodology that required one of two things for us to count the casualty, A) our eye-witness actually saw the deceased and knew his/her name or, B) our witness was a family member, and knew that his/her family member was deceased,” said Vic Ullom, legal adviser of the Commission of Inquiry (COI).

“For us, that was an appropriately high bar to get over those accounts that are fabricated or exaggerated. However, we only received a small percentage of the overall numbers of casualties, because we could only interview a small percentage of the refugee population,” he added.

According to the Centre for Documentation of Violations in Syria, an opposition website, the fatalities since the beginning of the conflict number some 69,000 people while the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, run by a Syrian who fled 13 years ago who is now based in the UK, puts the conflict’s casualties closer to 106,000 people. Both networks report on casualties from both sides and say they gather their information from human rights groups and activists in Syria.

However, experts warn that in a conflict like Syria’s, while a reliable network on the ground can provide decent statistics, it can also be challenging.

“They’ve got to be active and mobile, and they themselves [must] have good networks in the area that they cover. Being on the ground during a war, they will be very susceptible to all kinds of pressure, including to manipulate the numbers in favour of their political objectives,” said Ullom of COI, who added that it will be “extremely” difficult for such monitors to have access, but not favour either side.

Standard death toll tallying

In humanitarian emergencies, proper gathering, interpretation and use of mortality data can save lives as this database is the basis on which to plan a humanitarian response, say researchers.

Mortality rate is defined “as the number of deaths occurring in a given population at risk during a specified time period, also known as the recall period”. In emergencies it is usually expressed as deaths per 10,000 persons per day.

Crude mortality rate (CMR) and under five mortality rate (U5MR) are important indicators to assess and monitor the severity of an emergency situation, and are expressed per day.

CMR refers to the number of deaths among all age groups and due to all causes, while U5MR refers to the deaths of children under five years of age, out of 1,000 live births during a specified year.

According to the humanitarian guidelines known as SPHERE standards a CMR or an U5MR that is double the pre-crisis mortality rate indicates a “significant” public health emergency.

But one longstanding challenge of tallying death tolls in armed conflicts is whether to count deaths from “war-related causes”, including starvation due to lack of access to farmland in the line of fire, or from treatable diseases and minor wounds when patients cannot get treatment.

Several efforts have been made to standardize methodologies including the Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART), a network of organizations and humanitarian practitioners that has published a protocol for nutrition and mortality assessments.

But getting practitioners on the ground to apply these standards under duress is another matter.

Scarce resources, security concerns hamper data collection

CRED’s Guha-Sapir added: “At this time, there is no agreed-on methodology or even guidelines that could help operational workers who are on the ground to estimate the dead.”

The Harvard Project on monitoring, reporting and fact finding has been researching for the past two years guidelines on a common investigative methodology for mortality statistics. The project targets the work of fact-finding missions and commissions of inquiry mandated by the UN and entities such as the European Union.

A major challenge for such missions is they do not compile raw data, but rather, rely on often unreliable casualty statistics compiled by other organizations.

“Commissions of inquiry frequently operate under broad mandates under scarce resource and time constraints,” Rob Grace, program associate at the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) at the School of Public Health at Harvard University, told IRIN.

“For this reason, they tend to lack the capacity to undertake a comprehensive examination of all incidents that have occurred in the relevant context. Most commissions of inquiry mandated to gather information about violations of human rights endeavour to gather information about certain incidents that are emblematic of the patterns of violations that have occurred. The task of gathering accurate quantitative information about fatalities is not typically included in mandates for commissions of inquiry.”

Security restrictions are another added worry.

“Other challenges involve lack of territorial access in situations in which the host country has not granted the commission on-the-ground access, and ad hoc territorial access restrictions imposed, for example, by armed groups that control territory,” said Grace.

For Guha-Sapir, a systematic review of how governments and organizations, including the Red Cross and UN, calculate their death tolls is crucial.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) does not conduct mortality surveys during conflict, but rather relies on mortality data from health centres it supports, according to its health unit. For non-conflict mortality data, it relies on national health authorities, local civil society groups, and both national and international NGOs.

“They [governments and organizations] undoubtedly do their best in very chaotic conditions but it is first important to know how they do it. This can give some important insights into what the constraints are and also build from experience,” Guha-Sapir said.

fm/pt/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

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Everyone has the right to be safe – Disaster risk reduction

Posted by African Press International on May 21, 2013

By Jaspreet Kindra 

Everyone has the right to be safe

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Focus on implementation
  • Need to make countries accountable
  • A human rights-based approach to making people safer
  • New-found attention to resilience could help

JOHANNESBURG, 17 May 2013 (IRIN) – A month after the Indian Ocean tsunami struck in December 2004, affecting millions, 168 countries signed on to a 10-year plan to make the world safer from natural hazards. Yet the plan, the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005-2015, focused primarily on “what to do to prevent disasters, but not enough on how to implement it,” says Neil McFarlane, chief coordinator and head of all regional programmes at the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

Countries have since begun discussing what a follow-up action plan, the Hyogo Framework for Action 2 (HFA2), should look like. The results of these talks, a sketch of the HFA2, will be presented at the Fourth Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, which begins in Geneva on 19 May.

A draft will be finalized towards the end of 2014, for consideration and adoption at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Japan in 2015.

The HFA2 will need to take on a number of emerging risks and concerns. While the HFA has helped countries reduce the loss of human lives, the economic consequences of natural disasters have continued to rise. For three consecutive years, natural hazards have cost the world more than US$100 billion a year, according to data from the Brussels-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) released in March 2013.

Additionally, disaster risks are changing: The effects of the changing climate are expected to prompt more intense and frequent extreme natural events, including floods, droughts and cyclones. Urban populations are growing, as is demand for food, ratcheting up pressure on resources like land and water.

Accountability

In tackling the HFA2, experts are discussing how to improve accountability. “We have a framework with options to develop good disaster plans in the Hyogo, but how do we make governments, agencies… ensure it is implemented?” Tom Mitchell, head of the climate change programme at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), told IRIN.

Mitchell says one of the major weaknesses of the HFA is its failure to ensure that “well-crafted” disaster risk reduction (DRR) policies were actually implemented. The agreement is voluntary, and there are no penalties for failing to put in place measures to protect citizens.

“Because it [HFA] is voluntary, we have to ask how… effective it can be,” remarked Frank Thomalla, senior research fellow with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) in Asia.

Some question whether the world should consider a legal disaster-prevention treaty with a provision for penalties.

The new plan’s timing is significant for the global community; 2015 also marks the end of the Millennium Development Goals and possibly the implementation of new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are still under discussion. A new agreement on addressing and adapting to climate change is also likely to be put into place around that time. Aid agencies and think tanks are all calling on the global community to consider the synergies among these policy-shaping developments.

Many observers now question whether DRR policies should become a part of the legal climate deal, which might ensure their implementation. Countries’ DRR activities are increasingly considered part of their climate change adaptation plans, and are being funded as such.

But there is no appetite for a legal treaty on DRR, says UNISDR’s McFarlane.

Harjeet Singh, ActionAid‘s international coordinator for DRR and climate change adaptation (CAA), says he is uncertain if a legal treaty “will bring about a dramatic change… After all, we have seen how [the UN’s] climate convention (UNFCCC) … failed to deliver in the last 20 years.”

Besides, the climate change deal will not consider geophysical events such as earthquakes and other triggers of potential disasters unrelated to climate, he added.

“Many of the drivers of vulnerability result from inequality and marginalization, meaning certain regions and social groups are more vulnerable to hazards than others and are more strongly affected by the impacts”

That fact, plus the range of social and economic factors contributing to disaster risk, calls into question the rationale for viewing DRR, CCA and development from a purely climatological perspective, SEI’s Thomalla told IRIN in an email.

But the Cancun Adaptation Framework adopted by countries at the UNFCCC talks in Mexico in 2010 urges countries to implement the HFA, so it does make it a part of a stronger commitment linked to climate change says UNISDR’s MacFarlane.

Taking measurements

Under the HFA, countries are required to report on how far they have complied with implementing DRR strategies and policies. But how “reliable is this data?” asked Thomalla. “How much opportunity is there for governments to ‘manipulate’ the information in order to be seen to be doing something?”

For instance, a country might report to the HFA that it has established an early warning system to reduce hazard vulnerability. “But how can we be sure that the system works…? That people know how to respond to the warnings?” Thomalla said.

There is no proper baseline at the start of HFA, nor are there specific targets for countries to follow, said Singh.

“Targets and milestones for implementation should… be relevant and realistic for each country and agreed on through multi-stakeholder consultations,” noted Mitchell in a briefing paper co-authored with colleague Emily Wilkinson.

McFarlane and Mitchell suggest the development of a peer-review mechanism, which is just taking off in some developed countries, could be an effective way to ensure countries comply.

UNISDR Chief Margareta Wahlstrom said there has been a change in mindset since HFA: “The most visible signs of this change are summarized by the facts that 121 countries have enacted legislation aimed at reducing the potential impact of disasters, and 56 countries have national disaster-loss databases, which illustrates the growing recognition that you cannot manage risk management if you are not measuring your disaster losses.”

Mitchell’s ODI briefing paper also suggests “a human rights approach, in which countries fulfil obligations to respect, protect and fulfil basic human rights, including the ‘right to safety’ of vulnerable people exposed to hazards.”

This suggestion has support. Singh says, “Legislation to ensure safety and security of people is a good first step.” But it has to be implemented effectively all the way down to the community level, and must take into account the voices of the poor and women, he added.

Thomalla says a rights-based approach would be a good way to address DRR “because many of the drivers of vulnerability result from inequality and marginalization, meaning certain regions and social groups are more vulnerable to hazards than others and are more strongly affected by the impacts.”

But, again, creating global legislation could be problematic, he noted. “Monitoring and enforcement will also be difficult. Rich countries must come forward to provide resources and transfer skills to developing countries to reduce disaster risks.”

Resilience is key

Most experts pin their hopes on the new-found interest in “building resilience”. Resilience is billed as a concept that will better link development, DRR and CCA by bringing the humanitarian aid community, which deals with disasters, closer together with development agencies. A focus on resilience might also help push for the implementation of DRR plans and promote funding.

The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami helped disaster risk reduction get the attention it needed

“The current separation of what is mainly [a] humanitarian response to disasters, through DRR and CCA, from business-as-usual development funding no longer makes sense,” said Thomalla.

In fact, disasters routinely reverse development gains. For example, floods in Thailand in 2012 cost three percent of the country’s annual GDP, affected education and caused the loss of vulnerable families’ household assets.

“New development goals must factor in risk, whereby all goals, to the extent possible, are risk- informed,” said Antony Spalton, the DRR specialist with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “Given the significance of the risks posed by climate change, fragility and conflict, a post-2015 framework that better draws together DRR, climate change adaptation and conflict prevention/peace building under a goal or target for resilience could be considered.”

UNISDR has already drafted a resilience-based disaster plan for the post-2015 development agenda, the Plan of Action on Disaster Risk Reduction for Resilience. It calls for an assurance that “DRR for resilience” is central to post-2015 development agreements and targets. It calls for timely, coordinated and high-quality assistance to countries where disaster losses pose a threat to development, and for making DRR a priority for UN funds, programmes and specialized agencies.

Singh says countries “should develop a comprehensive resilience strategy rather than a piecemeal …strategy, when ‘pushed’ by donors.”

Building resilience to a range of changes and risks does make sense, according to Thomalla. But we have a long way to go.

“While we have made a lot of progress in thinking about resilience as a unifying concept, we need to strengthen our methods and tools to help… develop the institutions and governance structures that enhance resilience and enable them to measure and demonstrate success,” he said.

Ultimately, Singh says, “it all depends on the willingness of country governments to take concrete steps from local to national levels and enhance [the] resilience of poor and vulnerable communities.”

McFarlane says there are lots of ideas and suggestions on the table. Stay tuned.

jk/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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168 countries signs a 10-year plan to make the world safer from natural hazards

Posted by African Press International on May 17, 2013

JOHANNESBURG,  – A month after the Indian Ocean tsunami struck in December 2004, affecting millions, 168 countries signed on to a 10-year plan to make the world safer from natural hazards. Yet the plan, the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005-2015, focused primarily on “what to do to prevent disasters, but not enough on how to implement it,” says Neil McFarlane, chief coordinator and head of all regional programmes at the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

Countries have since begun discussing what a follow-up action plan, the Hyogo Framework for Action 2 (HFA2), should look like. The results of these talks, a sketch of the HFA2, will be presented at the Fourth Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, which begins in Geneva on 19 May.

A draft will be finalized towards the end of 2014, for consideration and adoption at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Japan in 2015.

The HFA2 will need to take on a number of emerging risks and concerns. While the HFA has helped countries reduce the loss of human lives, the economic consequences of natural disasters have continued to rise. For three consecutive years, natural hazards have cost the world more than US$100 billion a year, according to data from the Brussels-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) released in March 2013.

Additionally, disaster risks are changing: The effects of the changing climate are expected to prompt more intense and frequent extreme natural events, including floods, droughts and cyclones. Urban populations are growing, as is demand for food, ratcheting up pressure on resources like land and water.

Accountability

In tackling the HFA2, experts are discussing how to improve accountability. “We have a framework with options to develop good disaster plans in the Hyogo, but how do we make governments, agencies… ensure it is implemented?” Tom Mitchell, head of the climate change programme at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), told IRIN.

Mitchell says one of the major weaknesses of the HFA is its failure to ensure that “well-crafted” disaster risk reduction (DRR) policies were actually implemented. The agreement is voluntary, and there are no penalties for failing to put in place measures to protect citizens.

“Because it [HFA] is voluntary, we have to ask how… effective it can be,” remarked Frank Thomalla, senior research fellow with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) in Asia.

Some question whether the world should consider a legal disaster-prevention treaty with a provision for penalties.

The new plan’s timing is significant for the global community; 2015 also marks the end of the Millennium Development Goals and possibly the implementation of new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are still under discussion. A new agreement on addressing and adapting to climate change is also likely to be put into place around that time. Aid agencies and think tanks are all calling on the global community to consider the synergies among these policy-shaping developments.

Many observers now question whether DRR policies should become a part of the legal climate deal, which might ensure their implementation. Countries’ DRR activities are increasingly considered part of their climate change adaptation plans, and are being funded as such.

But there is no appetite for a legal treaty on DRR, says UNISDR’s McFarlane.

Harjeet Singh, ActionAid‘s international coordinator for DRR and climate change adaptation (CAA), says he is uncertain if a legal treaty “will bring about a dramatic change… After all, we have seen how [the UN’s] climate convention (UNFCCC) … failed to deliver in the last 20 years.”

Besides, the climate change deal will not consider geophysical events such as earthquakes and other triggers of potential disasters unrelated to climate, he added.

“Many of the drivers of vulnerability result from inequality and marginalization, meaning certain regions and social groups are more vulnerable to hazards than others and are more strongly affected by the impacts”

That fact, plus the range of social and economic factors contributing to disaster risk, calls into question the rationale for viewing DRR, CCA and development from a purely climatological perspective, SEI’s Thomalla told IRIN in an email.

But the Cancun Adaptation Framework adopted by countries at the UNFCCC talks in Mexico in 2010 urges countries to implement the HFA, so it does make it a part of a stronger commitment linked to climate change says UNISDR’s MacFarlane.

Taking measurements

Under the HFA, countries are required to report on how far they have complied with implementing DRR strategies and policies. But how “reliable is this data?” asked Thomalla. “How much opportunity is there for governments to ‘manipulate’ the information in order to be seen to be doing something?”

For instance, a country might report to the HFA that it has established an early warning system to reduce hazard vulnerability. “But how can we be sure that the system works…? That people know how to respond to the warnings?” Thomalla said.

There is no proper baseline at the start of HFA, nor are there specific targets for countries to follow, said Singh.

“Targets and milestones for implementation should… be relevant and realistic for each country and agreed on through multi-stakeholder consultations,” noted Mitchell in a briefing paper co-authored with colleague Emily Wilkinson.

McFarlane and Mitchell suggest the development of a peer-review mechanism, which is just taking off in some developed countries, could be an effective way to ensure countries comply.

UNISDR Chief Margareta Wahlstrom said there has been a change in mindset since HFA: “The most visible signs of this change are summarized by the facts that 121 countries have enacted legislation aimed at reducing the potential impact of disasters, and 56 countries have national disaster-loss databases, which illustrates the growing recognition that you cannot manage risk management if you are not measuring your disaster losses.”

Mitchell’s ODI briefing paper also suggests “a human rights approach, in which countries fulfil obligations to respect, protect and fulfil basic human rights, including the ‘right to safety’ of vulnerable people exposed to hazards.”

This suggestion has support. Singh says, “Legislation to ensure safety and security of people is a good first step.” But it has to be implemented effectively all the way down to the community level, and must take into account the voices of the poor and women, he added.

Thomalla says a rights-based approach would be a good way to address DRR “because many of the drivers of vulnerability result from inequality and marginalization, meaning certain regions and social groups are more vulnerable to hazards than others and are more strongly affected by the impacts.”

But, again, creating global legislation could be problematic, he noted. “Monitoring and enforcement will also be difficult. Rich countries must come forward to provide resources and transfer skills to developing countries to reduce disaster risks.”

Resilience is key

Most experts pin their hopes on the new-found interest in “building resilience”. Resilience is billed as a concept that will better link development, DRR and CCA by bringing the humanitarian aid community, which deals with disasters, closer together with development agencies. A focus on resilience might also help push for the implementation of DRR plans and promote funding.

“The current separation of what is mainly [a] humanitarian response to disasters, through DRR and CCA, from business-as-usual development funding no longer makes sense,” said Thomalla.

In fact, disasters routinely reverse development gains. For example, floods in Thailand in 2012 cost three percent of the country’s annual GDP, affected education and caused the loss of vulnerable families’ household assets.

“New development goals must factor in risk, whereby all goals, to the extent possible, are risk- informed,” said Antony Spalton, the DRR specialist with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “Given the significance of the risks posed by climate change, fragility and conflict, a post-2015 framework that better draws together DRR, climate change adaptation and conflict prevention/peace building under a goal or target for resilience could be considered.”

UNISDR has already drafted a resilience-based disaster plan for the post-2015 development agenda, the Plan of Action on Disaster Risk Reduction for Resilience. It calls for an assurance that “DRR for resilience” is central to post-2015 development agreements and targets. It calls for timely, coordinated and high-quality assistance to countries where disaster losses pose a threat to development, and for making DRR a priority for UN funds, programmes and specialized agencies.

Singh says countries “should develop a comprehensive resilience strategy rather than a piecemeal …strategy, when ‘pushed’ by donors.”

Building resilience to a range of changes and risks does make sense, according to Thomalla. But we have a long way to go.

“While we have made a lot of progress in thinking about resilience as a unifying concept, we need to strengthen our methods and tools to help… develop the institutions and governance structures that enhance resilience and enable them to measure and demonstrate success,” he said.

Ultimately, Singh says, “it all depends on the willingness of country governments to take concrete steps from local to national levels and enhance [the] resilience of poor and vulnerable communities.”

McFarlane says there are lots of ideas and suggestions on the table. Stay tuned.

jk/rz  source http://www.irinnews.org

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DRR doesn’t always get sufficient funding – Sometimes the donors don’t put a priority on disaster risk

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2013

AQABA, – Investing in preparation for potential disasters is a “no brainer”, Elizabeth Longworth, director of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), told a recent disaster risk reduction (DRR) conference in Aqaba, Jordan.

And yet a report published last month by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said DRR funding accounts for only 3 percent of humanitarian aid and just 1 percent of all other development assistance.

Last year (seen as a relatively quiet year by natural disaster experts), the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) recorded 310 natural disasters, leading to 9,930 deaths affecting 106 million people.

In total in the last three years, disasters have caused more than US$300 billion of recorded damage.

So, if the scale of the damage is not in dispute, why is DRR not better resourced? Has the funding argument not yet been won?

Improving funding

“Funding is a challenge,” said Jordan Ryan, director of the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery at the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

“DRR doesn’t always get sufficient funding. Sometimes the donors don’t put a priority on disaster risk. They don’t always come through. So, I think we need even more attention.”

But natural disaster experts are emphatic that DRR funding is fundamentally a good investment. Estimates vary about how much can be saved, but the most conservative figures say that every $1 spent on DRR is worth $4 later on.

One example of the difference preparation can make is in what is now Bangladesh where in 1970 the Bhola cyclone killed up to 500,000 people. Nearly four decades later when another destructive storm hit (Cyclone Aila, 2009), early warning systems, hundreds of cyclone shelters, and disaster volunteer networks helped keep the country’s death toll below 200.

When natural hazards meet unprepared communities, populations are left extremely vulnerable, as seen when Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in 2008, a country without early warning systems or storm shelters.

Perceptions of the importance of disaster preparedness vary from country to country.

“In Japan people understand this is money well spent,” Kimio Takeya, visiting senior adviser for the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), told IRIN, saying the country had been buffeted by earthquakes, typhoons and floods in the last 50 years: “Everything hit Japan.”

This follows a clear pattern. Governments find it difficult to appreciate risk and the need for risk reduction, until disaster strikes.

Changing perceptions

“I suppose that if we had won the argument [about DRR funding], we wouldn’t be making the case for increased donor commitment anymore as much as we do, so I guess the simple answer is no, we haven’t won it yet. But I do also believe that it is changing,” said Jo Scheuer, team leader for DRR and recovery at UNDP.

“It is very difficult to convince the political leaders or the people to spend money before the disaster. This needs something like far-sightedness”, Kimio Takeya, JICA

“The recent events, including in Japan and US, have shown clearly that they disasters affect everybody. It is an increasing risk that we are facing, particularly in terms of climate change, and if you look at the global discussions around also humanitarian aid and the resilience debate, there is a clear movement – I would say a political will – to move away from just responding to humanitarian crises or disasters, to actually building resilience.”

For donors, agencies like UNDP make the argument that DRR spending can be a means of reducing the long-term emergency humanitarian aid needed annually to deal with each new natural disaster.

“Donors are now increasingly putting money into preparedness and resilience, so that there aren’t only these millions of dollars that are for response, but that you can actually prepare countries beforehand for building their resilience, particularly in urban cities, where there’s growing infrastructure and the risk of massive potential economic damage,” Aditi Banerjee, disaster risk management specialist in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region at the World Bank, told IRIN.

But beyond donors, experts say there needs to be a change of attitude in governments, which find it difficult to reallocate funds from areas like health and education to DRR.

“Of course it is very difficult to convince the political leaders or the people to spend money before the disaster. This needs something like far-sightedness,” said Takeya.

He has been looking at the impact of DRR spending on GDP growth. “We are modelling and trying to calculate and analyse for each country. There’s a definite positive pattern – we can show the evidence that… your GDP growth will go down without DRR investment,” he said.

Convincing governments that they are not yet spending what they should on DRR is crucial, said Longworth.

“The sustainability of DRR is when budget-holders, whether they be governments, local governments, or other entities actually start re-orientating their budget allocations to DRR, and that’s why we’re putting so much attention on the economic case. It is absolutely well established now that the scale of economic losses from disasters justifies significantly more investment in reducing risks.”

More data, a growing awareness of the link between the scale of a disaster and preparedness, and international initiatives like the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), agreed in January 2005 just after the Indian Ocean tsunami, have helped change perceptions about DRR.

For Banerjee at the World Bank, even in the MENA region, which has been less affected by natural disasters than others, thinking is clearly changing.

“To me this shift has been the most intense in MENA, because MENA is not typically a region that is like Asia or Latin America that is hit by a disaster every few months. It’s hit by big disasters but over time, which is why sometimes the institutional memory is forgotten. But in the five years that I’ve been here there’s been so much more dialogue on this.”

Using climate funds

One potential source of funding for DRR projects that garnered a lot of interest from delegates at March’s first DRR conference in the Arab world is climate change resource streams.

“This is already happening. If you look at some of the projects, programmes, entities that have been funded from the various existing financial instruments related to climate change adaptation, many of those activities are actually classic DRR activities – from early warning systems to agricultural livelihood measures and so on,” said Scheuer.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is in charge of three climate funds: the Adaptation Fund, the Least Developed Countries Fund, and the Special Climate Change Fund, set up under the Kyoto Protocol to offset the negative effects of climate change in the developed world.

The first two projects under the Adaptation Fund were to help handle rising sea levels in Senegal, and water management in Honduras.

Another recent US$7.6 million project in northern Pakistan funded by the Adaptation Fund is to help communities better prepare for sudden glacial lake flooding.

“If it’s rising sea levels, or depleted water table, when you address it, you are reducing the risk, you’re also anticipating what’s coming in terms of global warming,” said Longworth.

Several Pacific countries are drawing up joint strategies at a national level to tackle DRR and climate change adaptation together.

“The issue here is not that you get a transfer from the climate pots into the disaster pots of money. The issue is that programmatically and substantively speaking, we make sure that we have the synergies between those two funding streams,” said Scheuer.

“It doesn’t matter where the money comes from; it matters that we address the issue of risk and build resilience,” he said.

But preparedness is not all about big money – much DRR work, experts stress, can be relatively cheap things like training volunteers, teaching basic first aid techniques, and making better use of tools like mobile phones that many people already have.

Sometimes it can even just be a question of remembering former ways of living that were more resilient in terms of natural hazards.

In Japan, flood prone areas in traditional communities normally had an elevated building somewhere in the area that people could escape to, with second floors commonly storing a boat to help residents escape.

Build back better

In reality, it is very difficult for governments to grasp the value of DRR until they have been the victim of a major disaster.

In the case of Algeria, it was only after the Boumerdès earthquake of 2003 and the deaths of around 3,500 people that the government beefed up regulations for the construction of schools and hospitals, according to Hichem Imouche from the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The same thing happened after the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake, which levelled most of Tokyo. Building regulations were strengthened again in Japan after the Great Hanshin earthquake near the city of Kobe in 1995; rubber blocks were placed under bridges and earthquake proof shelters constructed.

“Once disaster happens it is of course a bad situation but it is a chance to revise the way of thinking,” said Takeya.

No doubt the debate will move forward when DRR experts and officials meet on 19-23 May for the Fourth Session of the Global Platform for DRR in Geneva, Switzerland.

jj/cb
source http://www.irinnews.org



 

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Investing in preparation for potential disasters is a “no brainer”, Elizabeth Longworth, Director of UNISDR

Posted by African Press International on May 12, 2013

Analysis: Getting governments to cough up for DRR

By John James

Survivors pass through their devastated village in Mindanao, Philippines, following Typhoon Bopha (Dec 2012)

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Funding argument not yet won
  • Disaster preparedness saves lives
  • Donors putting more money into resilience
  • Climate funds also help DRR

AQABA,  – Investing in preparation for potential disasters is a “no brainer”, Elizabeth Longworth, director of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), told a recent disaster risk reduction (DRR) conference in Aqaba, Jordan.

And yet a report published last month by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said DRR funding accounts for only 3 percent of humanitarian aid and just 1 percent of all other development assistance.

Last year (seen as a relatively quiet year by natural disaster experts), the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) recorded 310 natural disasters, leading to 9,930 deaths affecting 106 million people.

In total in the last three years, disasters have caused more than US$300 billion of recorded damage.

So, if the scale of the damage is not in dispute, why is DRR not better resourced? Has the funding argument not yet been won?

Improving funding

“Funding is a challenge,” said Jordan Ryan, director of the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery at the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

“DRR doesn’t always get sufficient funding. Sometimes the donors don’t put a priority on disaster risk. They don’t always come through. So, I think we need even more attention.”

But natural disaster experts are emphatic that DRR funding is fundamentally a good investment. Estimates vary about how much can be saved, but the most conservative figures say that every $1 spent on DRR is worth $4 later on.

One example of the difference preparation can make is in what is now Bangladesh where in 1970 the Bhola cyclone killed up to 500,000 people. Nearly four decades later when another destructive storm hit (Cyclone Aila, 2009), early warning systems, hundreds of cyclone shelters, and disaster volunteer networks helped keep the country’s death toll below 200.

When natural hazards meet unprepared communities, populations are left extremely vulnerable, as seen when Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in 2008, a country without early warning systems or storm shelters.

Perceptions of the importance of disaster preparedness vary from country to country.

“In Japan people understand this is money well spent,” Kimio Takeya, visiting senior adviser for the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), told IRIN, saying the country had been buffeted by earthquakes, typhoons and floods in the last 50 years: “Everything hit Japan.”

This follows a clear pattern. Governments find it difficult to appreciate risk and the need for risk reduction, until disaster strikes.

Changing perceptions

“I suppose that if we had won the argument [about DRR funding], we wouldn’t be making the case for increased donor commitment anymore as much as we do, so I guess the simple answer is no, we haven’t won it yet. But I do also believe that it is changing,” said Jo Scheuer, team leader for DRR and recovery at UNDP.

“It is very difficult to convince the political leaders or the people to spend money before the disaster. This needs something like far-sightedness”, Kimio Takeya, JICA

“The recent events, including in Japan and US, have shown clearly that they disasters affect everybody. It is an increasing risk that we are facing, particularly in terms of climate change, and if you look at the global discussions around also humanitarian aid and the resilience debate, there is a clear movement – I would say a political will – to move away from just responding to humanitarian crises or disasters, to actually building resilience.”

For donors, agencies like UNDP make the argument that DRR spending can be a means of reducing the long-term emergency humanitarian aid needed annually to deal with each new natural disaster.

“Donors are now increasingly putting money into preparedness and resilience, so that there aren’t only these millions of dollars that are for response, but that you can actually prepare countries beforehand for building their resilience, particularly in urban cities, where there’s growing infrastructure and the risk of massive potential economic damage,” Aditi Banerjee, disaster risk management specialist in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region at the World Bank, told IRIN.

But beyond donors, experts say there needs to be a change of attitude in governments, which find it difficult to reallocate funds from areas like health and education to DRR.

“Of course it is very difficult to convince the political leaders or the people to spend money before the disaster. This needs something like far-sightedness,” said Takeya.

He has been looking at the impact of DRR spending on GDP growth. “We are modelling and trying to calculate and analyse for each country. There’s a definite positive pattern – we can show the evidence that… your GDP growth will go down without DRR investment,” he said.

Convincing governments that they are not yet spending what they should on DRR is crucial, said Longworth.

“The sustainability of DRR is when budget-holders, whether they be governments, local governments, or other entities actually start re-orientating their budget allocations to DRR, and that’s why we’re putting so much attention on the economic case. It is absolutely well established now that the scale of economic losses from disasters justifies significantly more investment in reducing risks.”

More data, a growing awareness of the link between the scale of a disaster and preparedness, and international initiatives like the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), agreed in January 2005 just after the Indian Ocean tsunami, have helped change perceptions about DRR.

For Banerjee at the World Bank, even in the MENA region, which has been less affected by natural disasters than others, thinking is clearly changing.

“To me this shift has been the most intense in MENA, because MENA is not typically a region that is like Asia or Latin America that is hit by a disaster every few months. It’s hit by big disasters but over time, which is why sometimes the institutional memory is forgotten. But in the five years that I’ve been here there’s been so much more dialogue on this.”

Using climate funds

One potential source of funding for DRR projects that garnered a lot of interest from delegates at March’s first DRR conference in the Arab world is climate change resource streams.

Tropical Cyclone Haruna brought widespread flooding to south-west Madagascar (Feb 2013)

“This is already happening. If you look at some of the projects, programmes, entities that have been funded from the various existing financial instruments related to climate change adaptation, many of those activities are actually classic DRR activities – from early warning systems to agricultural livelihood measures and so on,” said Scheuer.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is in charge of three climate funds: the Adaptation Fund, the Least Developed Countries Fund, and the Special Climate Change Fund, set up under the Kyoto Protocol to offset the negative effects of climate change in the developed world.

The first two projects under the Adaptation Fund were to help handle rising sea levels in Senegal, and water management in Honduras.

Another recent US$7.6 million project in northern Pakistan funded by the Adaptation Fund is to help communities better prepare for sudden glacial lake flooding.

“If it’s rising sea levels, or depleted water table, when you address it, you are reducing the risk, you’re also anticipating what’s coming in terms of global warming,” said Longworth.

Several Pacific countries are drawing up joint strategies at a national level to tackle DRR and climate change adaptation together.

“The issue here is not that you get a transfer from the climate pots into the disaster pots of money. The issue is that programmatically and substantively speaking, we make sure that we have the synergies between those two funding streams,” said Scheuer.

“It doesn’t matter where the money comes from; it matters that we address the issue of risk and build resilience,” he said.

But preparedness is not all about big money – much DRR work, experts stress, can be relatively cheap things like training volunteers, teaching basic first aid techniques, and making better use of tools like mobile phones that many people already have.

Sometimes it can even just be a question of remembering former ways of living that were more resilient in terms of natural hazards.

In Japan, flood prone areas in traditional communities normally had an elevated building somewhere in the area that people could escape to, with second floors commonly storing a boat to help residents escape.

Build back better

In reality, it is very difficult for governments to grasp the value of DRR until they have been the victim of a major disaster.

In the case of Algeria, it was only after the Boumerdès earthquake of 2003 and the deaths of around 3,500 people that the government beefed up regulations for the construction of schools and hospitals, according to Hichem Imouche from the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The same thing happened after the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake, which levelled most of Tokyo. Building regulations were strengthened again in Japan after the Great Hanshin earthquake near the city of Kobe in 1995; rubber blocks were placed under bridges and earthquake proof shelters constructed.

“Once disaster happens it is of course a bad situation but it is a chance to revise the way of thinking,” said Takeya.

No doubt the debate will move forward when DRR experts and officials meet on 19-23 May for the Fourth Session of the Global Platform for DRR in Geneva, Switzerland.

jj/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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