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Posts Tagged ‘DRR’

Children learning disaster risk reduction in Timor-Leste

Posted by African Press International on June 26, 2013

Children learning how natural disasters can affect them

DILI,  – Timor-Leste needs to do more at the national and district levels to boost disaster preparedness, especially in rural areas, say experts.

Each year, communities face an increasing number of natural hazards with 185 floods recorded since 2010, compared to 32 between 2001 to 2009, according to the National Disaster Management Directorate (NDMD).

Over 70 percent of the country’s 1.1 million people live in rural areas.

In June, more than 1,850 people in the half-island nation were affected by floods in five of the countries13 districts, the NDMD reported.

“The country is not well prepared to cope and respond to any kind of large-scale natural disaster,” Geraldine Zwack, country director for CARE International, told IRIN in the capital Dili.“If disaster preparedness starts at the community level then the impact on the district is less. It reduces the burden on the government during an emergency response and increases the communities’ ability to bounce back and recover more quickly.”

Aid agencies say an increased focus on disaster preparedness at the national government level is needed, particularly in addressing infrastructure, food security and the livelihoods of poor rural communities who are vulnerable to disasters.

“The country is regularly affected by disasters and the majority of these are small local ones, such as floods and landslides,” said Pedruco Capelao, education in emergencies manager at Save the Children. “There is a need to improve disaster response mechanisms at national and sub-national level, and ensure emergency supplies are stockpiled to allow communities to respond to any disaster.”

According to Maplecroft’s annual Natural Hazard Risk Atlas (2013), which evaluates the exposure and resilience of 197 countries to 12 natural hazards, Timor-Leste is at extreme risk when natural disasters strike, due to its lack of coping mechanisms, and is ranked six and 34 for infrastructure fragility and community vulnerability, respectively.

The overall socioeconomic resilience ranking for Timor-Leste is 32.

The Assessment Capacities Project, implemented by Help Age International, Merlin and the Norwegian Refugee Council, is working to improve the assessment of needs in complex emergencies. In September 2012 a Project report said “urban areas are unprepared for possible disasters” and had particular concern about a “lack of earthquake resistant structures in Dili or district capitals”.

While Timor-Leste is prone to severe and recurrent drought, flooding and landslides, other risks include tropical cyclones, earthquakes and tsunamis, the report noted.

“It is a disaster for the people here, who mostly rely on agriculture for survival, when a flood, landslide or drought hits. When the farmers’ crops are completely washed away, they are left with nothing. The government must work to prepare these communities to respond to these challenges and build infrastructure and resilience to assist people to cope with such disaster,” said Oxfam country director Kunhali Muttaje.

“Most of the government focus is on emergency response and only a small proportion of the budget is directed towards disaster risk reduction (DRR) activities,” emergencies and DRR project officer at Save the Children Jack French told IRIN, noting that “there is a need for the government to create a policy or legal framework and develop a strategic plan for DRR which would allow the ministries and the NDMD to focus more on disaster preparedness at the district level.”

An early warning sign in Manufahi District

Climate change impact

With long-term average temperatures and sea levels rising over the past few decades, climate scientists are warning that things could get worse.

“Many regions and industries are not well adapted to the current range of climate variability, with impacts on agriculture and infrastructure from droughts and floods,” said Michael Grose, a research scientist for the Pacific-Australia Climate Change Science and Adaptation Planning Program (PACCSAP), within the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, a scientific research agency based in Australia.

In terms of climate change, “it is likely that sea level rise has influenced the impact of coastal inundation events in vulnerable coastal regions. Heavy rainfalls that may have some influence from human-driven climate change affect the incidence of river floods,” Grose said.

Since 1993, the rise in sea levels globally has increased more rapidly, at 3.2 (+/-0.4) mm/year, compared to 1.7 (+/- 0.2) mm/year in previous years (recorded since 1880), according to the report Climate Change in the Pacific: Scientific Assessment and New Research (Australian Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO, 2011).

However, in Timor-Leste the rate is higher than the global average – over 7 mm/year between 1993 and 2009.

“In Timor-Leste, there is a need to develop systems, procedures and infrastructure to help vulnerable communities adapt. People are not ready to cope with the current climate conditions, and a warming climate will only make these impacts harder to deal with as the frequency or intensity of disasters increases,” said Grose.

The government says it has the capacity to respond to small, localized disasters and a contingency plan in place, initially prepared in 2006.

“Programmes focus on local level capacity building, including improving infrastructure, relocation of vulnerable groups in risk areas, hazard and risk assessment and mapping, and use of local and indigenous knowledge to strengthen the communities’ coping mechanisms,” NDMD director Francisco do Rosario told IRIN.

According to NDMD, legislation is needed to promote coordination between government sectors and the implementation of DRR programmes.

“Disaster preparedness is vital for the country’s ongoing stability and continued economic development,” said UN Development Programme (UNDP) country director Mikiko Tanaka.

“As the government has acknowledged, increasing climate variability as well as the increasing intensity of extreme events will require greater institutional efforts as well as financial investment to improve resilience, especially at the community level.”

ch/ds/cb  source


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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.



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