Investing in Disaster Risk Reduction Saves Lives

12 Oct 2011

UNDP in Mozambique Local Risk Management Committee volunteers in a UNDP-supported training exercise transferring injured people to a tent offering first aid in Mozambique. Credit: UNDP Mozambique

2011 International Day for Disaster Reduction, October 13

The 21st century has been marked by an escalating impact of disasters from natural hazards and the huge loss of life and destruction of livelihoods and communities that come with them. In 2010, nearly 400,000 people were killed by disasters worldwide and more than 200 million people were affected. Economic damage was estimated at USD 110 billion. Disasters seriously undermine, or even reverse, years of hard-won progress in achieving Millennium Development Goals.

Now more than ever, reducing disaster risks and preparing to respond to disasters should remain a top priority for every government in disaster-prone countries and for all of us working with such countries.

The message is clear: investing in disaster risk reduction saves lives and secures hard-won development gains.

Over the past 10 years, UNDP has worked with national governments in more than 50 high disaster-risk countries to strengthen governance structures and institutions for better prevention, mitigation and management of disaster risks, as well as more effective responses to disasters.

Governments, with support from the international community, need to engage in building resilience on a sustained basis to address disaster risk reduction as an integral part of development.   Impressive reduction in disaster-related mortality in countries like Bangladesh and Mozambique has been achieved— but it has taken a decade or more of continued efforts. Both countries have integrated disaster risk reduction efforts into broader development plans, and have involved a wide range of partners to address disaster risk in a comprehensive manner. Mozambique has become a regional leader in disaster preparedness

More recently, with UNDP’s support through improved early warning systems, Indonesia was able to issue a warning within five minutes of detecting a major earthquake in September 2009, leading to the successful evacuation of its residents to designated safe sites.  Another 18 Indian Ocean countries and coastal communities are establishing a standard operating procedure for early warning in the region.

In the Horn of Africa, beyond the immediate and urgent life-saving initiatives to address the drought and food crises, UNDP is helping to improve the technical capacity at local and national levels for better drought mitigation and adaptation in the region over the long-term. We are also paying extra attention to well-known patterns of risk. The Global Risk Identification Programme (GRIP), hosted by UNDP, is helping high risk countries organise risk-related information at the national and local level and make sure it is integrated into development and preparedness planning.

We know that the Horn of Africa is a highly food-insecure region where access to food is exacerbated by recurrent droughts.  We need to make risk information easily accessible and ensure funding is available to mitigate that risk.  Most importantly, we have to act on the information we gather and analyse in order to avoid natural hazards turning into catastrophes or, as in the case of the Horn of Africa, droughts into famines.

Talk to Us: What other efforts can be put in place to build sustained engagement and build resilience?

Marta Ruedas,

UNDP Assistant Administrator and Deputy Director, Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery

UNDP Around the world