Thailand seeks to better understand its disaster-related economic losses to build resilience

Source(s): United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction - Regional Office for Asia and Pacific

BANGKOK, 28 August 2019 - In the face of climate change and growing urbanization, Thailand is taking key steps to strengthen its resilience, including through a better understanding of disaster-related economic losses. The collection of statistics on losses and damages, especially on key sectors such as agriculture, housing, infrastructure, and cultural heritage, can guide risk reduction efforts to safeguard these sectors.

In January 2019, Thailand won international praise for its swift actions in response to Tropical Storm Pabuk. Thousands of citizens and tourists were safely evacuated from harm’s way and the storm caused few deaths. That said, the storm’s impact on southern Thailand’s critical infrastructure was significant. Besides damaged homes, hundreds of hospitals and schools were damaged. Thai education officials estimated Pabuk caused 110 million Baht (3.6 million USD) in damages to 435 schools in the south.

To inform better investments to disaster resilient infrastructure and design sound risk reduction plans, it is critical to have access to quality disaster loss information to prioritize the most affected areas. In light of this, Thailand’s Department for Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM) partnered with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) to organize a workshop to inform government officials and private sector partners to better coordinate the collection, sharing and reporting of disaster damage and loss data. Such data will be used to also track implementation progress against the global Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-30).

The workshop focused on the indicators for two of the Sendai Framework targets; C, which calls for reducing direct disaster economic loss in relation to GDP, and D, which calls for reducing disaster damage to critical infrastructure, among them schools and hospitals. Target D is the focus of this year's International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, which is observed on 13 October 2019.

“These indicators will be used as baselines for future risk reduction and to ensure continuous improvements of the national DRR plan,” said Ms Jureerat Thepart, Deputy Director of DDPM.

In collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UNDRR led the training sessions for this first of a kind workshop. “Measuring reductions in direct economic losses and damage to critical infrastructure is a challenge for countries because the data is either not collected or it is collected by a number of different government agencies, and coordinating the collection and reporting of that data can be complex for the country,” said Mr Timothy Wilcox, Program Management Officer in the UNDRR Asia-Pacific Regional Office.

One obstacle in collecting this data is that much of the economic losses generated by disasters are felt by the private sector. As a result, most economic loss estimates are believed to be underreporting the true impact of disasters. Mr Thanathorn Sitthipol, from the Siam Cement Group (SCG), called on the private and public sectors to become involved in sharing the responsibility of reporting damage and loss data.

As a result of this workshop, Thailand’s DDPM will have preliminary roadmap to coordinate the collection of data it needs from these sectors to strengthen the country’s resilience to disasters and report its progress in implementing the Sendai Framework.

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