Is your government prepared to protect you from a typhoon or earthquake?

AdvocacyDisaster response and preparednessDisaster risk reductionChurch and resilienceLivelihoods

The tsunami in Sulawesi in Indonesia, Super Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines, Hurricane Florence in the USA, and the floods in Kerala, India, have all been recent reminders of the immense damage that disasters can cause. In 2017, more than 95.6 million people were affected by natural hazard-induced disasters, resulting in 9,697 deaths and economic losses of USD $335 billion.

Participants of a disaster risk reduction workshop held by Tearfund in Nepal being trained in responding to emergencies. Photo: Matthew Joseph/Tearfund
Participants of a disaster risk reduction workshop held by Tearfund in Nepal being trained in responding to emergencies. Photo: Matthew Joseph/Tearfund

Prevention support

These catastrophes also remind us of the need for proactive and long-term disaster risk reduction (DRR) work. This helps reduce the disaster risk that communities are exposed to and the vulnerabilities that leave them susceptible to impact. 

During the period 1997–2016, just 4 per cent of Official Development Assistance (ODA) was spent on disaster prevention and preparedness, while 72 per cent was spent on emergency response. This needs to change. While it is vital that survivors receive the support they need to recover, it is even more important to help reduce the impact of a potential disaster before its onset. 

Raising awareness 

Did you know that October 13 is the International Day for Disaster Reduction? This day was established in 1989 by the United Nations to ‘promote a global culture of risk-awareness and disaster reduction’. How are the government and civil society in your country marking this day? 

This could be an excellent opportunity for you to hold your government accountable to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015–2030). This is a voluntary and non-binding agreement that UN member states adopted three years ago and succeeds the Hyogo Framework for Action. 

The Sendai Framework stresses that it is the state’s (ie your national government’s) primary responsibility to prevent and reduce disaster risk, while also recognising the roles played by other stakeholders such as local government, private entities and civil society. 

The UN has been promoting the seven targets of the framework through an advocacy campaign called the ‘Sendai Seven’. You can read more about each of the targets on the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction’s website. This year, the focus of the Sendai Seven campaign is on the third of the seven targets (target C), which is to reduce economic losses from disasters.

‘One disaster can wipe out the fruit of years of social development.’

Government action? 

How has your government been implementing the Sendai Framework and working towards the seven targets? Does your government have systems to warn people early enough about forthcoming natural hazards – such as typhoons or floods – to enable them to seek safety? Is the guidance they have provided clear and easy for everyone to understand? Are local churches and their communities aware of and involved in these plans? 

In Nepal, after the 2015 earthquakes, Tearfund supported the government of Nepal in strengthening government policy and strategic action plans on DRR. To support the government's reconstruction strategy, Tearfund Nepal has trained 850 builders from local communities and 150 government engineers on disaster risk resilient structures. These people are sharing this knowledge with others and applying skills in the ongoing reconstruction process. 

Advocate for change 

Are you aware of any civil society movements involved in or advocating for DRR in your country? They may be listed in the countries and regions section on PreventionWeb’s website. Click here to see what I found when I looked up resources on Bangladesh. 

One disaster can wipe out the fruit of years of social development. Together with our governments, we can change this by getting involved in DRR before the next disaster strikes. Please consider advocating for DRR in your country to reduce the impact of disasters. 

Asha Kurien
Asha Kurien is a Humanitarian Policy Officer at Tearfund. Email: asha.kurien@tearfund.org