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The importance of Disaster Risk Reduction

The topic of this blog is somewhat more technical. The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction states that there is no such thing as a ‘natural’ disaster, only natural hazards. Disaster risk reduction aims to reduce the damage caused by natural hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, droughts and cyclones. Reduction of damage is done by prevention.

The Sendai Framework
When the Great East Japan Earthquake hit Japan in 2011, it created a cascade of disasters. Firstly, the earthquake hit, causing the tsunami, followed by the nuclear emergency at Fukushima. The disaster displaced a total of 100,000 people. Though Japan is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, there are many other countries that are at risk too.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is an international (non-binding) agreement, listing seven targets and four priorities for action. The Framework recognises that the State has the primary role to fulfil when it comes to reducing disaster risk, but this responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders, such as local governments and civil society. The targets of the framework range from reducing global disaster mortality by 2030, to substantially reduce the number of people affected globally by 2030. A list of the targets and actions can be found here.

Why is this important?
As previously stated, natural disasters do not occur spontaneously, they are the effect of a natural hazard and the choices societies have made in order to prevent natural hazards in becoming actual disasters. Disaster risk reduction is a choice.

In 2015 alone, 346 disasters were reported, causing the deaths of 22,773 people. Additionally 98.6 million people were affected by disasters and the financial damage was about 66.5 billion USD. The top five of countries that were hit by disasters in 2015 were: China (26), USA (22), India (19), Philippines (15) and Indonesia (11). According to Robert Glasser, the head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the climate, often aided by a strong El Niño was a factor of 92% of those events. The figures show that weather and climate-related disasters now dominate disaster trends linked to natural hazards.

Poverty
When taking a look at the financial implications of disasters, they are enormous. The top five countries for 2015 show that disasters are a risk for both high income and low(er) income countries click to investigate. A study by the Victoria University of Wellington on tropical cyclones in the Philippines showed that factors such as poverty and exposure are more important than the impact of hazard. In their research they found that there was strong evidence that socioeconomic development reduces people’s vulnerability. Additionally strong local governance is associated with fewer fatalities.

We know that changes in our climate are occurring, additionally with temperatures set to rise the coming decades, the matter of disaster risk reduction will only become more and more important.

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Rene Perey

Rene Perey