DISASTER PREPAREDNESS:saving lives and livelihoods

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My interest in this topic is brought about by the frequent climatic anomalies  specifically in  Haiti and the impact this is having on the chronic  poor.

Over the last two decades,the number of recorded disasters has doubled from approximately 200 to over 400 per year.Nine of every ten of  these disasters have been climate related.Current projections regarding change suggests this trend is set to continue and that weather related hazards  events will become more frequent and more volatile.Patterns of drought and desertification are also intensifying.In addition,vulnerability is growing in many countries.Increasing unbanisation,including growing concentrations of people in unplanned and unsafe urban settlements and exposed to coastal areas,poverty,HIV prevalence,and inadequate attention to changing risk patterns,are placing more and more people in disater-prone  locations.

Never before has the challenge ”to substantially reduce the impact of disaster and to make risk reduction an essential component of development policies and programmes”,spelled out in the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015(HFA),being more urgent and compelling.

In general and specifically Haiti, implementing the HFA will involved effective disaster risk reduction and entails community participation.The involvement of communities in the design and implementing of activities helps to ensure that they are well tailored to the actual vulnerabilities and to the needs of the affected people.This informed engagement helps to avoid problems and secondary effects when hazard events occur.

Disaster risk reduction must  be integrated into development activities.Disaster underpine hard won development gains,destroying lives and livelihooods and trapping many people in poverty.In addition,capacity development is a central strategy  for reducing  risks.This is needed  to manage the risks successfully.It entails not only training and specialised technical assistance,but also the strengthening of capacities and communities and individuals to recognise and reduce risks in their localities.Other measures include decentralisation of resposibilities,public-private partnerships  to mention but a few.

How is the  chronic poor affected  when disaster occurs.Over the last five years,in an era of unprecedented global wealth creation,the number of people living in chronic poverty  has increased(this in not typical of Haiti).Between 320 and 443 million people are now trapped in poverty that  lasts for many years,often for the entire lifetime.Their children frequently inherit chronic poverty.For the chronically poor,poverty is not simply about  having a very low income,it is about multidimensional deprivation-hunger,undernutrition,illeteracy,unsafe drinking water,lack of access to basic health services,social discrimination,physical insecurity and political exclusion.

Many chronically poor people depend on work which is insecure,low paid,unhealthy and unsafe,and have little scope oto improve their situation.Eradicating  chronic poverty by 2015 is a feasible goal-if national governments and international organisations make the necessary political commitment and resource allocations.This might seem an over-ambitious goal for some CDCs but offsetting this rapid gains could be made in several stable and relatively prosperous nations where many chronically poor people live  over  the next few years.

Social protection for the poor.Publicly provided social protection,particularly social assistance,plays a vital role in reducing opportunities for the chronically poor to engage with the growth process.

Public service for the  hard to reach.Making available reproductive health services and post-primary education can break the intergenerational transmission of poverty and have a dramatic effect on the prospects of  chronically poor.Inaddition,building individual and collective assests holding  will increase the personal (and collective) agency of the chronically poor.The more assets-psychological,as well as physical and social- a household possesses,the more leverage it has in social networks and transactions,as well as in formal financial markets.Anti-discriminatory  and gender empowerment policies and strategic urbanisation and migration are essntial policies to help  prevent chronic poverty and hence minimise the impact of natural disasters on the lives and livelihood of the chronic poor.

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