Early warning and early action are needed, so extreme weather events don’t become disasters
“Extreme weather events do not need to become disasters,” said Mozambique's President Nyusi on International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, at the launch of a joint UNDRR-WMO publication on multi-hazard early warning systems.
The report shows that multi-hazard early warning systems reduce the severity of disasters, allowing early action that prevents deaths and reduces the number of affected people. But many of the most vulnerable countries are not adequately covered by any type of early warning system. Less than half of the least developed countries and one-third of Small Island Developing States have a multi-hazard early warning system, while 60% of people in Africa are not covered.
To address this imbalance, the 2022 International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDDRR), on 13 October, focused on Target G of the Sendai Framework, calling for increased availability and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information.
Substantially increase the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments to people by 2030.
Early warning system coverage for all within five years
Marking the occasion, the UN Special Representative to the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, and World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) Secretary-General Petteri Taalas released a report, Global Status of Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems - Target G. Based on analysis of recent data, the study shows that disaster mortality in countries lacking early warning coverage is eight times higher than those countries with functioning multi-hazard early-warning systems (MHEWS).
At the ceremony to commemorate the international day in Maputo, Mozambique, Ms Mizutori said that global efforts should focus on addressing the gaps early-warning system coverage, especially in Africa.
“Today, one-third of the world’s population, mainly in the least developed countries and small island developing states, are not covered by disaster early warning systems,” she said.
“In Africa, it is even worse: 60 per cent of people lack coverage. This is unacceptable.”
Africa’s vulnerability to disaster risk
The African Union Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment, Josefa L.C. Sacko, elaborated on Africa’s exposure to natural hazards.
“The African continent is the most vulnerable to disaster risk. Since 2015, the continent recorded over 700 disaster events, which affected over 80 million people, and killing over 66,000 people across the continent. Droughts, cyclones and floods affected more people and undermine economic developments,” she said.
“In Mozambique, the memory from the cyclone Idai induced disaster is still fresh in our mind. Yet since the Idai disaster, which resulted to over 1000 mortalities and affected hundreds of thousands of people, disasters continue to affect people and development on the continent. In the horn of Africa, ongoing drought, which was the worst since the last 40 years, has affected over 50 million people.”
Ms Sacko noted that early warning systems could have helped to reduce the impacts of these disasters. Thankfully there are some recent initiatives to address this need.
Extending the reach of early warnings and climate information
The African Union Commission, working with international partners including UNDRR, the Government of Italy, and technical partner CIMA, recently set up the Africa Multi-hazard Early Warning and Early Action Systems Situation Room in February 2022. Located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Situation Room joins a network of early warning facilities, including the Disaster Operations Centre situation room in Nairobi, and the multi-advisory situation room in Niamey, Niger.
However, to meet the goals of providing early warning system coverage for all, more such facilities must be established at national and regional levels, in Africa and globally.
“Extreme weather events do not need to become disasters.”
Concept Note - International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction 2022
Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, President of Mozambique, noted that countries in the region are particularly vulnerable to natural hazards.
In recent years Mozambique and its neighbours have been struck by Cyclone Dineo, in 2017, by Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth in 2019, by Cyclone Eloise in 2021, and in 2022 by Tropical Storm Ana, Tropical Depression Dumako and Cyclone Gombe.
It also suffered a severe drought in 2015 and 2016, with water shortages in the south of the country – including the capital city Maputo – persisting for a further five years. These extreme weather events also affected neighbouring countries, and efforts to avert and manage them need to be cooperative.
“Disasters respect no borders, they affect all nations and communities,” he said.
Learning from these experiences, Mozambique has invested in its disaster risk reduction capacity, and has been recognised for its progress: in April 2022 President Nyusi was named as the African Union Champion for Disaster Risk Management.
“Extreme weather events do not need to become disasters,” he stressed. A cooperative approach involving early warning systems – already proven to reduce damages from floods, cyclones and droughts in the region – is needed to build resilience and improve responses to hazards.
Ms. Mizutori echoed the President’s appeal for cooperation.
“Together, we can achieve the global goal set by the UN Secretary-General that every person on the planet is covered by an early warning system within the next five years,” she said.
“We can, and we must, stop hazards from becoming disasters, and put the world on a path to Zero Climate Disasters.”
Global Status of Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems - Target G
An action plan for global early-warning system coverage
In his message commemorating the international day, UN Secretary-General António Guterres reiterated his commitment to expanding early-warning system coverage.
“At the COP27 climate conference in Egypt, I will launch an action plan to provide early warning systems for all within five years,” he said. “I urge all governments, international financial institutions and civil society to support it.”
He noted that the UNDRR-WMO report serves to remind leaders around the world to prioritise concrete action on loss and damage.
“On this International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, I call on all countries to invest in early warning systems and support those who lack capacity,” he said.
“Extreme weather events will happen. But they do not need to become deadly disasters.”