Disaster Risk Reduction: why it is so important

11 October 2012

This Saturday, October 13th is International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction. GOAL’s Bernard McCaul explains what disaster risk reduction involves, and why it is becoming more and more important for aid agencies to integrate it across many of its programmes in the developing world.

 GOAL community volunteers carry out erosion protection
works on the banks of the river Patuca in the municipality
of Ahuas in Gracias a Dios, Honduras.

“Aid agencies are becoming increasingly aware of the need to reduce the impact of natural and manmade disasters by incorporating risk reduction measures into development work.

“GOAL is more aware of this than most, given that it has responded to almost all of the world’s major disasters over the past 35 years.

“The devastation caused by the Haiti earthquake of January, 2010 and the south-east Asia tsunami of 2004 was horrendous. Such disasters can set the development of an already struggling country back years, if not decades.

“What aid agencies like GOAL can do is assist communities to identify, mitigate and prepare for disaster, and thereby reduce potentially devastating repercussions.

“This is the reasoning behind GOAL’s Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) programme, which aims to combat the effects of disasters through strengthening preparedness capacities and build longer term resilience in at risk communities.

“For example in Honduras - where I am GOAL’s country director – the country faces a variety of risks. On average four or five major storms form off the coast every year with the resultant risk of landslide and flooding exascerbated by extensive environmental degradation and a lack of appropriate landuse planning. Additionally urban areas are particularly at risk from the threat of earthquake , while urban rural communities face the ongoing risk of drought.

“Honduras is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to natural disasters. This is a huge impediment to its development.

“Our DRR programme in Honduras includes repairing and improving strategic infrastructure; developing emergency shelters and stockpiling relief supplies; installing early warning systems; raising local awareness and incorporating disaster risk reduction within the formal  education system (the latter in tandem with community training and generally building local capacity).

 GOAL workers help to install solar powered panels in the
Municipality of Villeda Morales in the remote region of
La Mosquitia, Honduras.

“The provision of training and equipment helps communities respond quickly and effectively to a potential disaster, which is essential to saving lives and livelihoods.

“GOAL has made disaster risk reduction and  increasing the resilience of vulnerable communities a priority, incorporating DRR into its programmes in most parts of the developing world.

“DRR programmes are tailored to each country’s particular needs. For instance, in Haiti GOAL has built earthquake-resistant houses and identified safer areas for beneficiaries to live.

“It is not just natural disasters that GOAL tries to mitigate. The organisation is flexible enough to deal with manmade disasters, as well. In Kenya for instance, with the possibility of further post-election violence in 2013, GOAL helps facilitate peace talks between different groups in previously affected regions.

“Avoiding every disaster is impossible – nature and the violent tendencies of mankind see to that - but with foresight, adequate funding and GOAL’s vast experience, we can limit the damage that disasters cause.” 

-    Bernard McCaul

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