Southern African countries set to track disaster losses

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction - Regional Office for Africa
Staff from the Angolan Civil Protection Service listen to a presentation during the disaster loss database event in their country's capital Luanda (Photo: Angolan Civil Protection Service)
Staff from the Angolan Civil Protection Service listen to a presentation during the disaster loss database event in their country's capital Luanda (Photo: Angolan Civil Protection Service)

LUANDA, 22 April 2016 – Six southern African countries have taken a key step in their efforts to implement the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, a 15-year global agreement to curb the impact of natural and man-made hazards, by starting a programme to harness data.

Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia -- all members of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), and currently tackling the impacts of El Nino – have launched a programme to build an evidence base of disaster losses that will track the time, place and impact of hazard events and thereby enable them to make their policies risk-informed.

“This will really help the countries to report on the targets of the Sendai Framework,” said Mr. Julio Serje, a disaster loss data expert from the Risk Knowledge Section of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), who took part in the launch last week in the Angolan capital Luanda.

Disaster risk knowledge is a cornerstone of the Sendai Framework, adopted by the international community in March 2015. When countries have accurate information about how disasters have affected them in the past, they can begin to implement effective policies to address the vulnerabilities, risk factors and exposure to curb the impact of hazards in future.

Angola's State Secretary for the Interior, Mr. Eugénio César Laborinho, noted that it was a matter of “transparent and irrefutable proof that with scientific knowledge we will be able to achieve better actions to protect our populations.”

“Disaster risk reduction is a permanent process of analysis, planning, decision-making and implementation of actions oriented to correct and reduce vulnerabilities that have been accumulating in the different stages of development,” he added.

Nearly two disasters of significant proportions have been recorded every week in Sub-Saharan Africa since 2000. Water, weather and climate hazards, notably floods and drought, dominate the region’s disaster profile, affecting around 12.5 million people per year. The economic impact is thought to be significantly underestimated, hence the need for more reliable, in-depth data.

Risk knowledge is a key component of the 80-million-euro Building Disaster Resilience to Natural Hazards in Sub-Saharan African Regions, Countries and Communities programme, launched last year and funded by the European Union as part of its cooperation with the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States.

The African Union Commission, UNISDR, the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery and the African Development Bank are implementing this regional initiative, and the Luanda event was part of the strand focussing on risk knowledge, with support from the UN Development Programme.

Technical staff in the participating countries will be trained to install and use the DesInventar global disaster loss accounting system to track disaster losses and damages. This data and subsequent analyses will then be used to create risk and vulnerability profiles to help identify cost-effective and evidence-based policy and financial options to reduce disaster risk.

In July 2015, African governments started their implementation of the Sendai Framework by setting themselves targets during a ministerial meeting in Cameroon’s capital Yaoundé.

“The Yaoundé Declaration – endorsed at the 4th High Level Meeting on Disaster Risk Reduction - also urges Member States and Africa’s regional economic communities to align their strategies with the Sendai Framework, and asks ministers of planning, economy and finance to incorporate disaster risk reduction into their policies,” underlined Mr. Pier Paolo Balladelli, UN Resident Coordinator in Angola and Resident Representative of the UN Development Programme.

“Risk management is predominantly a governance concern and a process that is as much political and economic, as it is technical,” he said.

Making risk reduction integral to policy planning is crucial for the success of the Sendai Framework, as is targeted action on underlying risk drivers such as poverty, disease, climate change, unplanned urbanisation, population growth, land management, decimation of ecosystems, and weak governance and policies.

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