Bottom up disaster risk reduction in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan community leader presents map
First aid and emergency response trainings are part of Kazakhstan's comprehensive disaster risk reduction and management strategy. Photo: UNDP in Kazakhstan

In the lead up to The Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, set for Sendai, Japan in March, UNDP is reflecting on a decade of support to help countries achieve the goals of the Hyogo Framework for Action.

Viktoriya Rotaru, a Russian instructor and native of Semey, Kazakhstan, sought temporary shelter in her relative’s house when flooding hit her village.

“It was a horrible experience,” she says. “We just had time to take our children and papers out into the street. We have four young kids. Surely, we knew that the Emergency Ministry had measures in place to help us out, but when disaster strikes so unexpectedly, you get lost. So we got into a car and drove off.”


  • Over 4,000 students in 15 schools in the Semey region trained on how to react during disasters
  • Hazard maps for villages and towns developed, highlighting local dangers and designating evacuation routes
  • Project funded by DIPECHO in partnership with UNDP, the Red Crescent Society of Kazakhstan and the Ministry of Emergency Services

Located in the Eastern part of the country, Semey, along with other towns in southeastern and eastern Kazakhstan, are particularly vulnerable to natural hazards. In addition to flooding, settlements suffer from extreme cold, earthquakes, mudslides and landslides.

To reduce risk in these communities, DIPECHO, in partnership with UNDP, the Red Crescent Society of Kazakhstan and the Kazakhstan Ministry of Emergency Services, initiated 'Reducing Disaster Risk with the Involvement of Local Communities in Southeast and East Kazakhstan,' an effort to strengthen resilience in the region.

Between January and May 2013, volunteers from the Red Crescent Society conducted trainings in 15 schools in the Semey region, teaching over 4,000 students how to react during disasters. Topics covered included what to do during an evacuation, staying warm in extreme cold, identifying the symptoms of hypothermia and performing life-saving first aid.

Students energetically participated in first aid training and more than half of them noted they had been in first-aid situations at least once in the past. The course provided hands-on training on how to make splints, how to bandage and stop bleeding, how to treat wounds and burns and how to lay an injured person in the recovery position.

Rotaru’s son Danila was one of the students who attended these trainings. He acquired new skills, and is particularly proud of now knowing how to bandage an injured arm.

“These trainings are very interesting. We get to practice a lot and make new friends in the process. I think it is very important to be on top of things when emergency strikes. Being scared doesn’t help at all,” says Danila.

“The training doesn’t stop once sessions end,” says Adilbek Ramazanov, a Semey-based Red Crescent Society Volunteer. “You see the kids discussing the lessons as they leave. Our hope is that they will tell their parents and siblings and friends what they’ve learned, and these skills will spread, bit-by-bit, through the entire community.”

Given Kazakhstan’s exposure and vulnerabilities (including infrastructure and development choices that need improvement), a great deal of Government focus these last ten years has been on enhancing local awareness, preparedness and response capacity so as to avoid future losses.

“Kazakhstan was one of the 168 signatories to the Hyogo Framework for Action," notes Alexey Nikitin, project manager at UNDP. "As such, it has invested a great deal of time and resources towards strengthening community resilience and meeting its obligations under that agreement.”

In addition to the local level school awareness, Kazakhstan has supported trainings in disaster risk reduction principals and tools; worked with members of villages and towns to develop ‘hazard maps' for their areas; and, in the towns of Tekeli, Syrymbet and Karabulak, worked with local administrators to create effective ways of collecting and disseminating data that can make risk monitoring more effective.

“We are weaving disaster risk resilience into these communities,” says Sergazy Sadykov, head of emergency response unit at Kazakhstan’s Emergency Ministry. “We are trying to show that building up resilience isn’t something extra or optional—it is the key to making sure we continue to develop as a country."

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