Social media boosts International Day

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
Crianças32, Cabo. Copyright Bernardo Soares
Crianças32, Cabo. Copyright Bernardo Soares

GENEVA, 26 November 2012 - An analysis of activity around last month’s high-profile International Day for Disaster Reduction shows that social media played a key role in sharing news and messages and engaging people to join in the celebrations with 27 million views of over 5,000 tweets on Twitter.

The focus on the role of women and girls as a force for resilience and reducing risk in their communities was actively celebrated in over 80 countries - from Afghanistan to Zambia - which provided UNISDR with details of how they joined in the “Step Up for Disaster Risk Reduction” Campaign on the day.

Over 250 events have been recorded and highlights can be viewed on UNISDR website. The collaborative website created by UNISDR for the Day was viewed over 30,000 times from August to October. In the week leading up to 13 October, the website had even more views than UNISDR's own homepage.

The interactive crowd map developed by Huairou Commission, Oxfam, Plan International, the Gender and Disaster Network, and Northumbria University to highlight examples of women and girls as a force for resilience has collected 141 reports so far from around the world.

UNISDR Chief, Margareta Wahlström, said: “This has been a very successful International Day for Disaster Reduction. The theme really captured people’s imaginations and there is no doubt that governments, cities, civil society groups, NGOs and UN agencies have all made use of it to promote better appreciation of the role that women and girls play in building disaster resilience and why we need to continue encouraging them to become involved. It is a theme that we will return to in the year ahead.”

Initiatives undertaken around the world were many and varied and widely covered in the press. Here are a selected few.

In Australia, the Attorney General, Nicola Roxon, and the Minister for the Status of Women, Julie Collins, issued a joint press release which referenced two government supported initiatives including a toolkit that helps women in remote communities take the lead on disaster preparedness and a report which will look at the economic impact of disasters on women.

The Thai News Service covered the remarks of Nguyen Thi Tuyet, vice-president of the Vietnam Women’s Union, who said that women took part in most disaster preparedness activities including house repairs and evacuation planning but too often “Women have been seen as victims instead of crucial actors in disaster management. They have little chance to make decisions. Thus, households led by females tended to be those with the lowest resilience after natural disasters.”

The Jakarta Post, Nepal Post and the Bangkok Post all ran an op-ed by UNISDR Chief Margareta Wahlström, “Women, girls and disasters” which was distributed through the Project Syndicate network.

The Manila Bulletin reported on how Plan International organized a mangrove planting and kayaking clinic for girls. The Uzbekistan Daily reported on the impact of a UNDP-organized event targeting journalism students with information on disaster reduction.

The Press Trust of India reported that the National Institute of Disaster Management has invited proposals from schools to develop their own safety plans for creating awareness among students, teachers and other stakeholders on school safety.

Xinhua News Agency reported that 855 million people affected by natural disasters have received assistance from the Chinese government over the last decade. Data released from the Ministry of Civil Affairs on International Day shows that investment in disaster risk reduction has jumped from 2.4 billion yuan in 2002 to 8.6 billion yuan last year during a period when the country has been hit by multiple droughts, earthquakes and floods.

The Frontier Post quoted the Director General of the Punjab Emergency Service Rescue, Dr. Rizwan Naseer, telling rescuers from several parts of Pakistan to ensure community participation to create disaster resilient communities. A special dua – a supplication - was offered on behalf of the victims of the October 2005 earthquake, the 2010/2011 floods and recent fires in Lahore and Karachi.

Bangladesh’s Financial Express reported that Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, used the day to call for more cyclone shelters to be built in the country’s coastal areas where 34% of the country’s population lives.

The Ghanaian Chronicle reported that the National Disaster Management Organization had taken note that disaster reduction programmes which did not include women and children leads to the overlooking of their needs and concerns.

In Rwanda, there was a widespread media campaign on radio and television. Training was provided in secondary schools and to women’s associations.

In South Africa, training was provided to 30 disaster trauma support officers in Cape Town and there was an official signing of the Children’s Charter for Disaster Risk Reduction in the capital Pretoria.

In Barbados, famous for its great singers such as Rihanna, there was a song competition organized by CDEMA, UN Women and UNDP. And in the small twin-island developing state of St. Kitts and Nevis there was a street parade and a march to city hall.

There were many activities throughout Latin America, including a round table at the Universidade Federal de Bahia on environmental and urban risks; a special commemorative event in Posada, Argentina; and march and social mobilization activities in Pearl Lagoon, Somoto and Madriz in Nicaragua.

In honor of World Disaster Risk Reduction Day, the Noun Project worked with the experts from the Global Disaster Preparedness Center and the American Red Cross to host an Iconathon on the topic of Urban Disaster Preparedness. The icon set developed will be used for any number of applications including mapping, websites and publications. These icons will help the American Red Cross and the rest of the humanitarian community communicate important Disaster Preparedness ideas graphically. The event was open to the public.

In Europe, the Armenian National Survey for Seismic Protection hosted a training course. There was a similar focus on earthquake risk in Greece with guided tours of the innovative project “Raising Earthquake Awareness and Coping with Children’s Emotions.”

The occasion was used for the launch of the latest World Risk Report in Brussels, Belgium. In Tbilisi, Georgia, there was a focus on the role of women and girls in building resilience under an ECHO programme.

In the Middle East, Egyptian national radio broadcasted a 30-minute interview on the role of women and girls in disaster management. Civil Defense in Palestine produced a six minute film on the day’s theme capturing the role of women in aspects of life such as agriculture, education, health and civil protection. 12,000 SMS messages were sent from the WAFA news agency to all its subscribers to all its subscribers to raise awareness.

In Lebanon there was a national conference on disaster risk reduction: “Assessing and Managing Risks in Lebanon” to encourage more municipalities to join the “Making Cities Resilient” campaign.

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