Preparing for disasters must include all citizens, especially the older persons

13 Oct 2014 by Jo Scheuer, Chief of Profession, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction

An older man buying groceriesOn the international day for disaster risk reduction, let’s make sure that we include and empower older persons as well. Photo: UNDP Ukraine
Whenever a disaster occurs, be it Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines or Hurricane Sandy here in New York, we stress the need to invest more in disaster preparedness. Early warning systems, contingency planning, evacuation routes and training for response teams – these are all things that can, and should, be set up well in advance of a disaster in order to save lives. However, we need to remember that there is no one-size-fits all approach. Everything we do, from early warning to shelter provision, has to be tailored to the needs and capacities of community members. Older persons in particular are disproportionately impacted by disasters, as they often have limited capacity and less access to available systems. Difficulties in hearing or seeing, for instance, may limit access to emergency announcements; chronic health issues or special needs may delay or prevent escape and evacuation; and an absence of transportation may limit the ability to stock up on food, water and supplies. For older persons unfamiliar or unaware of the gravity of the crisis, there may be reluctance to reach out or seek shelter. So what can we do? First, we can recognize the specific vulnerabilities of the older persons and take measures … Read more

Reversing the “Silent Earthquake of the Century”

24 Sep 2014 by Gary Lewis, Resident Coordinator, IR Iran

woman sitting in a desert in IranThe Carbon Sequestration Project's achievements prove that degraded lands can be economically and feasibly restored by, and for, local communities. Photo: Sadaf Nikzad/UNDP Iran
According to climate change predictions, the Middle East faces a hotter, drier future. Iran sits at the very centre of the Middle East.  About 80 per cent of its surface is already arid or semi-arid, and the challenge of desertification is literally creeping up on us.  Some have called it “The Silent Earthquake of the Century”. In many parts of Iran this has been caused by sheep herders letting their flocks overgraze the land.  Sometimes it is caused by villagers breaking off rangeland shrubs for firewood. Because much of this problem is man-made, it can be fixed. To re-green desert rangelands, what you need is to replant. Shrubs saplings are incubated and watered until they are ready to be transplanted into holes dug by the community.  When hundreds of thousands of these shrubs grow over hectares, this creates a small biosphere which allows other vegetation and wildlife to return.  Such newly-greened biospheres sustain people’s livelihoods in a number of ways. But, in order for these areas not to be overgrazed again or used for fuel-wood, you need the ‘buy-in’ of the community to preserve and protect them. I have seen this process at work successfully with the “Carbon Project”, a community-development-plus-environmental … Read more

UNDP and the Global Environment Facility: Partnership for Sustainable Development

28 May 2014 by Magdy Martínez-Solimán, Director, a.i., Bureau for Development Policy

 Women prepare fish using a solar-powered oven as part of a project funded by GEF's Small Grants Programme. Photo: UNDP Mauritania.
Delegates from 183 countries, intergovernmental organizations and civil society organizations are meeting this week in Mexico to participate in the Fifth Assembly of the Global Environment Facility (GEF).  The GEF Assembly, the governing body of the GEF partnership, is a landmark event for the GEF, occurring every four years.  UNDP is one of the founding implementing agencies of the GEF, a partnership of governments, implementing agencies and civil society that has provided over US $12.5 billion in grants for 3,690 projects in 165 countries to address global environmental challenges.  Through its Small Grants Programme (SGP) implemented by UNDP, the GEF has also made more than 16,000 small grants directly to civil society and community-based organizations, totaling US $653.2 million.  UNDP has helped over 120 countries in the last four years alone to access more than US $1.9 billion from GEF-managed funds and associated cost sharing to address environmental challenges for sustainable development.  UNDP believes that the GEF is a critical instrument for financing sustainable development in developing countries.  UNDP’s delegation to the GEF Assembly will be advocating our belief that environmental sustainability is critical to poverty eradication, enhanced resilience and inclusive and sustainable growth. This is reflected in the areas of … Read more

From science-fiction to reality: A world without electrical power

20 May 2014 by Bahareh Seyedi, Energy Policy Specialist

  Universal access to modern energy services is achievable by 2030. There are no fundamental technical barriers, and proven and innovative solutions exist.
This week is the season 2 finale of “Revolution”, an American science fiction television series that takes place 15 years after the start of a worldwide, permanent electrical-power blackout.  Now you may wonder why this is the start of a UNDP blog. Let me elaborate: Far from the entertainment industry and the fictional world depicted in this drama series, a world without access to energy is a reality for 1.3 billion people worldwide who are without electricity and for 2.6 billion living without clean cooking facilities. Energy affects all aspects of our livelihood, from the way we prepare our food and keep our homes warm to our education, health, and environment.  In Sub-Saharan Africa, close to 80% of people still use wood, animal waste, charcoal and other pollution-causing fuels to cook their food and heat their homes. In 2012 alone, 4.3 million people died because of indoor air pollution due to these types of fuels… more than those killed by malaria and HIV/AIDs combined.  In India, for the 25% of the population who lives without electricity, access to energy means more children can go to school and study after dark, more women can invest in starting up a business or taking … Read more

In Africa, grassroots women tackle climate change

12 May 2014 by Karen Dukess, Communications Adviser

Member of Gatundu Mwirutiri Women Cooperative in KenyaOrganic vegetables grown for sale by members of the Gatundu Mwirutiri Women Cooperative in Kenya. Photo: UNDP in Kenya
Small, portable stoves that require only one piece of wood to prepare a meal, bio-gas digesters that turn cow dung into gas for cooking, and drip irrigation techniques to save water were among innovations shared by grassroots women leaders from Africa during a recent policy dialogue and learning exchange in Nairobi on building resilience to combat climate change and disaster.   Organized by UNDP, Huairou Commission and GROOTS Kenya, the event brought together grassroots women leaders from 11 countries with policy makers from throughout Africa and representatives from the international community. Throughout the three-day workshop, it became evident that grassroots women in communities in Africa are not waiting to be told how to cope with climate challenges, but are initiating, adapting and sharing innovations themselves. “We have seen women mobilizing themselves before being mobilized,” said Isaac Kabongo, executive director of the Ecological Christian Organization in Uganda.  “Women are becoming the drivers of change in the communities in which they live, and are showing that they are very much willing to work together with all partners and institutions to move forward on the journey to resilience.” The need for reliable, sustainable energy was a cross-cutting, common need, and was voiced by women … Read more