UNDPI NGO Briefing - Dated: 10 October 2013
May I Ask a Question Ms. Special Representative of the
Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström?
“Living with Disabilities and Disasters”
2013 Theme: Living with Disability and Disasters
By resolution 44/236 (22 December 1989), the General Assembly designated the second Wednesday of October International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction. The International Day was to be observed annually during the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, 1990-1999.
By resolution 64/200 of 21 December 2009 the General Assembly decided to designate 13 October as the date to commemorate the Day and to change the Day's name to International Day for Disaster Reduction. The objective of the observance is to raise awareness of how people are taking action to reduce their risk to disasters.
The theme of the 2013 International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR) is "Living with Disability and Disasters".
Persons living with disabilities are among the most excluded in society, and their plight is magnified when a disaster strikes. Not only are they less likely to receive the aid they need during a humanitarian crisis, they are also less likely to recover in the long-term. This year, the International Day for Disaster Reduction focuses on the approximately one billion people who live with some form of disability, and their vulnerability to disaster.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” - Benjamin Franklin
"Let us build an inclusive world where persons with disabilities can play an even greater role as resourceful agents of change." Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations
by Suna SENMAN for The Light Millennium
The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) was established in 1999 and works with UN member states, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, financial institutions and technical bodies. A ten year plan adopted in 2005 by 168 governments called “The Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015:Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters” is the focal point of UNISDR.
The moderator for the October 10 meeting, Ramu Damodaran, Deputy Director for Partnership and Public Engagement introduced Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlstrom who gave an overview of UNISDR objectives and activities to NGO representatives. With over 30 years of experience leading humanitarian relief operations in disaster and conflict, Wahlstrom gives practical insight to the UNISDR program.
UNISDR focuses on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) with the objectives of:
• Reducing exposure to hazards
• Decreasing vulnerability of both people and property
• Implementing best practices surrounding management of land and the environment
• Improving preparedness and detection of early warning signs for adverse events
Since 2011, UNISDR has adopted the “Step Up Initiative” focusing on vulnerable groups. In the past two years, children and young people then women and girls became the focal point of expanding inclusiveness to prevent damage in disasters. In 2013 the focus is on people with disabilities in disaster prevention planning. The United Nations Headquarters' also recently has made some adjustments in its history, and created some accesibility for the disabled peoples as well as an access center on the ground floor. There are more plans and programs to improve conditions for the disable persons at the UN premises as well as during combating with disasters and in the conflict zones.
The meeting began with a short video showing people with various types of disabilities such as blindness, deafness, and physical incapability being alerted to imminent disasters. The presentation showed that the early warning systems had not taken into account people with disabilities. A UNISDR survey revealed that 70% of the people with disabilities poled want to be involved in the planning of disaster prevention program in order to address their particular needs. Currently people of disabilities have double the casualty rate over the general population in disasters. The current early warning systems reveal that greater community awareness and caring for the entire population, including those with extra challenges need to be achieved.
Questions and comments from NGO representatives addressed failure in technology, either due to government shut downs or natural causes. While there is much room to improve technology in the DRR programs, the first line of defense is human caring. “Even though technology is helpful, never forget that the most important person to help in disaster is your neighbor or family,” one of the NGO representatives emphasized. Emergency responders, rescue workers, and even journalist need training to address all people with different needs. Greater understanding facilitates caring people to communicate and help problem solve in unpredictable situations.
When asked how many disasters are man made or natural Walstrom explained that nature creates hazards, and those hazards become disasters when human responsibility is lacking - leaving people and property vulnerable to exposure.
All disasters create economic hardship. Some incidents create disabilities crippling productivity and taxing health care systems. While only deaths are reported, major injuries are a huge consequence of tragedies. There are areas that have several small-scale disasters reoccurring that do not get the attention and funding like the large catastrophes. The accumulation of damage drains enormous funds from those local governments.
Some politicians attempt to address the overall necessity for DRR, especially the economic impact. Yet, those politicians are finding that short-term financial concerns overshadow the long-term economic stability that DRR provides, and therefore, have difficulty getting elected. “Politicians need help to make these changes,” Wahlstrom illuminates the need to support nominees with disaster relief platforms. In sum, nature changes and mankind is responsible to make decisions that help humanity flow with those changes with the least amount of damage as possible.
October 13 is the annual International Day for Disaster Reduction.
For the message by the Secretary General of the United Nations on the International Day for Disaster Reduction
Click here to see the video that has shown during the Briefing.
Programme and Biographies available in the following link (External)