Bringing about the 'Good Change' (together)
04 Mar 2015 by Napoleon Navarro, Deputy Country Director, Programmes, UNDP Cambodia
In the last decade, Cambodia has halved its poverty rate and improved the living conditions of its population. Yet because of extreme climate events that regularly descend on the country, Cambodia remains one of the most disaster-vulnerable countries in Southeast Asia. In 2013 alone, losses caused by floods added up to USD $356 million.
Disasters are tragic because of the consequences on human life and well-being, but they also present an opportunity to promote what UNDP now calls “risk-informed development.” Various actors and communities can—and should—work more closely together to create effective, multi-disciplinary approaches to respond to disasters and promote disaster risk reduction.
Take the 2013 floods as an example. A combination of heavy rains and the swelling of the Mekong River caused widespread damage to infrastructure and crops. 168 people died, most of them children, and 20 provinces were devastated, with thousands of hectares of rice destroyed and hundreds of kilometers of rural roads badly damaged.
Following the floods, the Cambodian government requested that UNDP work with various partners to carry out a Post Flood Early Recover Needs Assessment. Drawing on the expertise of UNDP’s country office, as well as the skills and knowledge of government partners, NGOs, and civil society organizations, we were able to accurately measure the flood damage and put together an assessment that clearly articulated the needs of the various communities. The assessment went well beyond infrastructure needs, and discovered what it would take to put families back on their feet. The report, published in April 2014 and shared widely among government institutions and development partners, helped to mobilize some US$200 million from donors in grants and loans to finance reconstruction projects.
We should not only work across sectors and disciplines in emergency situations—such an approach should be the norm, not the exception. We are working to make that the case by using instruments such as the Cambodia Disaster Information system (CamDi), a multi-sectorial data repository on disaster impact, as well promoting projects that draw on the rich experience and expertise that exist both within and outside Cambodia. We are particularly excited about the potential that the multidisciplinary CamDi system has to inform and improve disaster risk reduction efforts.
As we look forward to the WCDRR in Sendai, Japan, later this month, we should seek out more ways of ensuring that we leave no stone unturned in incorporating multiple perspectives on improving disaster risk reduction. Not only after, but even before disaster strikes.