Bridging the gap between climate scientists and disaster risk reduction experts, during Fifteenth Southern Africa Region Climate Outlook Forum
Windhoek (Namibia), 27 August 2011 – The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Disaster Risk Reduction Unit in partnership with the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and UNISDR is conducting a disaster risk reduction (DRR) stakeholders training workshop from 27-28 August 2011. The workshop will be held alongside the Fifteenth Southern Africa Region Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF-15) from 29-30 August 2011. The workshop aims to build bridges between climate scientists and DRR managers to advance social progress and sustainable development in the region.
“Fostering dialogue between disaster managers and climatologists is crucial for better application of forecasts in effective planning to minimize disaster effects,” said Kennedy Masamvu, the SADC DRR focal point.
Remarkable progress has been made in climate science and technology. For example, through climate forecasting, it has allowed various groups to anticipate future climatic and meteorological events. Disaster managers use this information to improve prevention, mitigation, preparedness, early response and recovery programs to manage climate-related hazards.
“We need to appreciate climate predictions to anticipate risks as well as integrate on-going dialogue with key sectors like agriculture, fisheries and water among others to overcome climate-related challenges in the long term,” explained Youcef Ait Chellouche, Deputy Head of UNISDR’s regional office in Africa. He also encouraged SADC member states to strongly advocate for this partnership in the upcoming COP 17 talks scheduled to take place in December in Durban, South Africa.
Past events have shown that a key challenge in integrating climate science into DRR policy and operations has been the lack of organized, pro-active and sustained partnerships. The vulnerability of people to weather-related disasters supports the need for National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) to provide end users with accurate, appropriate, timely and comprehensive information.
“We are here to help strengthen the existing cooperation between climate scientists and disaster management experts to advance information sharing for risk reduction and disaster preparedness in the region,” added Jan Dams from GFDRR.
Understanding climate change will help to develop appropriate climate change adaptation strategies and help development planners to effectively deal with future risks.
The fact remains that even if sometimes reliable climate information exists, little or no action is taken to concretely reduce related risks. Yet Africa continues to face the consequences of a changing climate, with rising risks and uncertainties. It is therefore the right time to start bridging the gaps between climate institutions and disaster managers to advance risk reduction and sustainable development.
The fourth assessment report of the IPCC reveals Africa as one of the most affected continents by climate change and variability, a situation aggravated by existing socio-economic challenges. In the SADC, with over 250 million inhabitants, 90 per cent of all disasters that occur in the region are climate related. This is critical since mainstay of the economies of the region is agriculture and this exposes the region to food insecurity and water stress.
The hazard profile in the SADC region is characterized by droughts, floods, mostly attributed to the Zambezi River and tropical cyclones in Madagascar and Mozambique. Floods and drought are the main focus of early warning and disaster preparedness strategies in the region over the last 20 years. Such events have highlighted the vulnerability of the SADC population to climatic variability, and also exposed the existence of weak early warning systems, aggravated by gaps in coverage of meteorological and hydrological data as well as ineffectual response by disaster managers.