African countries boost risk knowledge

An aerial view of Praia, Cabo Verde (Photo: UNISDR)
An aerial view of Praia, Cabo Verde (Photo: UNISDR)

NAIROBI, 20 May 2017 – The island nation of Cabo Verde and landlocked Swaziland have joined 26 other countries in Africa that are implementing the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, a 15-year global agreement which seeks to save lives, reduce disaster losses and improve management of disaster risk by enhancing risk knowledge.

The two countries have been spotlighting disaster risk thanks to UNISDR, under the “Building Disaster Resilience in Sub-Saharan Africa” programme, which is part of the European Union’s cooperation with the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States. Recent training sessions have drawn high-level government officials, technical officers from government agencies involved in disaster risk reduction and management, and United Nations bodies.

Such training workshops seek to establish national disaster loss databases in Africa, in order to form a critical knowledge base that will help countries to understand risk and guide  disaster risk reduction efforts. Historical data loss records form the basis for monitoring the implementation of the Sendai Framework and crafting national policy through a cost-benefit budget analysis. The records also support decision-making based on disaggregated data that looks at affected sectors, geographical location, and the time and nature of the hazard.

The two workshops kicked off with a session to define the Sendai Framework and UNISDR's role in its implementation, and to highlight the importance of measuring disaster losses and the need to understand risk before it can be tackled. Later, technical officers were introduced to the DesInventar global disaster loss accounting system and were trained on how to use it to track disaster losses and damages.

In Swaziland, the workshop was held in Ezulwini and hosted by the National Disaster Management Agency. Mr. Khangeziwe Mabuza, the Permanent Secretary in the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office, lauded UNISDR’s efforts to entrench disaster risk reduction in the country’s national plans.

“This shall facilitate the realisation of the strategic priorities of effectively understanding disaster risk, strengthening governance to effectively manage disaster risk, stimulating investment in DRR for resilience as well as enhancing preparedness for effective response and building back better during recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction as provisioned in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction,” said Mr. Mabuza.

The technical session of the workshop had 30 participants from various sectors, including health, education, planning and agriculture. At the end of the workshop, participants successfully entered real data on past disasters. Swaziland is a rural and hilly country which suffers predominantly from extensive disasters such as small-scale flooding, landslides, epidemics and drought.

Its National Disaster Management Agency aims to showcase a preliminary database online at the 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, which begins in Mexico next week.

The Cabo Verde workshop was held in Praia and hosted by the Serviço Nacional de Proteção Civil e Bombeiros (SNPCB) – the country’s National Civil Protection and Fire Service. Almost 40 participants attended from different sections of the Cabo Verde government. SNPCB also successfully entered a dozen real historical disaster events into a database.

“By having an evidence-based decision-making process, Cabo Verde and its partners will be at the forefront of responsible risk management, which will impact human lives and reduce the economic burden of disasters,” said the UN Deputy Resident Representative, Ms. Ilaria Carnevali.

Cabo Verde is an archipelago of 10 volcanic islands in the central Atlantic Ocean. It is prone to hazards such as floods and strong cyclonic winds, as well as drought and volcanic activity.

As part of the “Building Disaster Resilience in Sub-Saharan Africa” programme, UNISDR will roll out additional components, such as probabilistic national risk profiles and cost benefit analyses of the national budget and historical spending, once the disaster loss databases are in place. The workshops were designed to make links to these future elements. They have also helped participants to put into practice the process of collecting and using disaster loss information and to entrench national ownership of and responsibility for the data.

Africa faces recurrent climate-induced and natural disasters every year. Drought in particular is a hazard that has ravaged many parts of the continent this year leaving millions of people facing food insecurity and decimating lives and livelihoods.

The vast majority of the continent’s nations are developing countries which are disproportionately affected by natural disasters, which often undermine overall economic growth and development. Climate change, poverty and rapid economic development and urbanization are some of the underlying risk factors for the continent. Africa is expected to make a joint statement at the Global Platform, reiterating its commitment to reinforce disaster risk reduction as an integral part of its work on the world’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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