The United Nations confronts disasters

April 1, 2015

As one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries, the Philippines made a strong presentation at the United Nations Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, which was held in Sendai, Japan, last March 14th to 18th.

The Philippines sent an impressive delegation of 82 people, led by Senator Loren Legarda, who is the United Nations Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for the Asia Pacific, who spoke on behalf of President Aquino.

Disaster risks in the Philippines include badly managed urban and regional development, the rise of informal settlements in unsafe areas, and the decline in ecosystems, according to the senator. Add to that the impact of global warming. Eight of the top ten cities in the world that have the greatest exposure to natural hazards are in the Philippines. And the World Meteorological Organization points out that the rate of sea level rise in Philippine waters is three times the global average.

At the 2005 Disaster Risk Conference, a Framework for Action was introduced. Yet, even with these guidelines, disasters continued to take a heavy toll. Over the last decade, 1.5 million people were affected and 700,000 lost their lives.

At this year’s meeting, it was agreed to focus on a more targeted approach to guide countries and communities in managing risks and preventing the creation of new risks. The Sendai Framework outlines seven targets to be achieved over the next 15 years. These include reduction in global disaster deaths, economic losses, and disaster damage to critical infrastructure. The plan also aims to increase international cooperation and access to early warning systems and disaster risk information.

It is up to both the national governments and local governments (LGUs) to translate disaster risk policies into action. All construction should follow the geohazard maps, and coastal infrastructure should take into consideration sea level rise due to climate change.

The tragedy of the super-typhoon “Yolanda” was ignorance of the potential power of the storm surge. Officials did warn communities about a storm surge but did not prepare them for surges that were six meters high. Even evacuation centers were not spared from the deadly surge, and thousands of lives were lost as well as entire towns destroyed. The new Sendai Framework calls for the establishment of multihazard early warning systems to ensure that individuals and local governments will be warned in time to prepare.

Source: Manila Bulletin