Friday, October 08, 2010

Aid: Haiti, Pakistan: 2010 International Day for Disaster Reduction

Source: Australian Aid International (AAI); Government of Australia

Date: 08 Oct 2010

The wide scale damage caused by the July floods in Pakistan and the staggering loss of life from the Haiti Earthquake earlier this year are a stark reminder of how a single disaster can set back development programs by years and perhaps decades. The International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction on 13 October is an opportunity to focus attention on the work that is and can be done to make communities around the world safer from disasters.

The earthquake that struck Port–au–Prince in January showed just how dangerous a large disaster in an urban area can be. Many central government buildings, the United Nations headquarters, and local schools and hospitals had not been built to withstand the earthquake, and collapsed.

The focus of this year's International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction is 'Making Cities Resilient'—to achieve disaster resilient, sustainable urban communities. Cities and towns now cover between one and three per cent of the earth's surface, but they are home to more than 50 per cent of the world's population. Of these, around 74 per cent or 2.57 billion urban dwellers living in low and middle income nations are exposed to unacceptable levels of risk.

While urbanisation brings many gains, badly governed cities can put thousands of people's lives and livelihoods in danger. Ill–planning and a lack of political commitment to improve the urban environment, means that poor people who lack essential services remain at high risk of being affected by a range of disasters, including earthquakes and floods.

AusAID is helping governments address this through activities such as mapping hazards in urban areas and support to safer school construction in Indonesia and the Philippines.

What is disaster risk reduction?

Disaster risk reduction refers to activities that aim to limit the negative impacts of disasters. They either reduce the likelihood of a disaster occurring (through things like flood protection mechanisms, livelihood diversification, safe building practices), or strengthen a community's ability to respond and cope with a disaster (disaster preparedness activities such as cyclone shelters or evacuation routes).