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14.10.2014 - News

5 answers to better understand disaster risk reduction

1) Why is disaster risk reduction important?

Weather extremes become disasters when there is a serious disruption in the functioning of a community or society. People experience widespread losses and the affected community or society is unable to cope using its own resources. The correlation between the rise in global population and incidence of natural disaster is difficult to ignore. A hundred years ago, our planet was home to fewer than two billion people. The Emergency Events Database graphed a dramatic increase in the number of reported disasters since 1900, with an alarming rise since the 1970s. The organizational systems and infrastructures of our teeming human populace have fallen drastically out of tune with the natural environment in the past century. Between 2003 and 2012, natural disasters affected an average of 216 million people annually with an associated economic loss of over US $156 billion per year (Annual disaster Statistical Review 2013). Now imagine that by 2050 the global community is projected to exceed nine billion people.

2) What is included in DRR?

DRR promotes community-based strategies to manage the identified hazards. Available resources, technology and agreement among stakeholders contribute to prepare for and mitigate hazards and, where possible, to prevent them altogether. DRR encompasses physical interventions to reduce or avoid impacts of possible hazards (structural) as well as measures using knowledge, practice or agreement to reduce risks and impacts (non-structural).

3) One focus is on resilience, What does this term mean?

Actually, DRR is one aspect of disaster resilience. Beyond “coping and recovery capacity”, promoting community resilience is the interconnectedness of human and natural systems and their functioning amidst change. Experts contributing to resilience come from various fields, including climate change adaptation, social protection, fragile contexts and humanitarian preparedness/response. The question for development practitioners is how these sectors complement and enhance one another to increase resilience, thereby reducing vulnerability of populations to the risk of disaster.

DFID’s definition of resilience:
Disaster resilience is the ability of countries, communities and households to manage change, by maintaining or transforming living standards in the face of shocks or stresses—such as earthquakes, drought or violent conflict—without compromising their long-term prospects.

4) How is it implemented in Tdh?

Terre des hommes uses DRR to increase the chances that its child protection and health interventions and services remain viable in the event of a disaster. Assessing risk is part of a context analysis and project design process. Since the local population is in the best position to respond in the first 48 hours of a disaster, they must participate in the analysis and subsequent preparedness. In schools in India’s Andaman Nicobar Islands, for example, Tdh worked with students and teachers to identify and realize physical improvements to prevent injury and loss of life to school buildings. Tdh also trained student groups on first aid, fire safety and search & rescue which included mock drills.

Coming back to the importance of technology, Tdh has begun to promote drones in Latin America and Asia for flood risk mapping. We combine insights of local residents, flood data from national authorities and highly precise topographical maps made possible by drones. The rapid process produces a risk model risk and is most useful when the target area already falls entirely within an existing “red zone” of risk. By examining with a greater resolution, the maps inform project team and stakeholder decisions about design height of family shelters and latrines, community wells and even small household gardens.

Tdh is a member of the Swiss NGO DRR Platform. We exchange with the community of practice in Switzerland to enhance the quality of DRR services and capitalize on SWISS NGO experiences that shape to policy and practice. The also Platform has a voice on the Swiss Steering Group currently planning Switzerland’s contributions at the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendei, Japan in March 2015.

5) Can you give us some concrete examples?

In India’s West Bengal State , in the Sunderbans area, weather extremes (cyclones, torrential rains, flooding) and rise in sea levels are playing havoc with the people’s lives; and a lack of social organization to face the situation in the region was considered one of the main factors contributing to disaster risk. Hence, Tdh supported 24 villages to identify, assess and monitor disaster risks and enhance early warning systems in line with Government policy. We started with participative vulnerability and capacity mapping in each village. This analysis was used to 1) prepare of community contingency plans and 2) form and train community task forces. We build knowledge and capacity of 960 community task force members on the subjects of search and rescue, First Aid, water and sanitation, shelter management, damage assessment and relief management. The organization of mock drills also helped the task force groups to practice for future emergencies within communities. This effort has enhanced the morale of community in terms of preparedness and enabled them to respond to extreme weather events more systematically and which stands to reduce losses.

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