Making plans to mitigate disasters

25 October 2020 | Events

The Namibia Red Cross joined government and the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day for Disaster Reduction, encouraging citizens and government to take part in building more disaster-resilient communities and nations.
Namibia commemorates the day on Friday (23 October) under the theme “Increased number of national and local disaster risk reduction strategies”.
As part of implementing its mandate to support vulnerable communities and to increase their resilience levels, the Namibia Red Cross implemented a number of community projects in the Zambezi, Kavango East and West, Kunene, Ohangwena, Omusati, Oshana, Oshikoto, Khomas, Otjozondupa and Erongo regions.
These include risk communication and community mobilisation focussing on Hepatitis E and Covid-19 in most regions, a fire prevention project to reduce the number of deaths, injuries and socio-economic impacts caused by informal settlement house burns in Windhoek, an emergency drought response project in Kunene as well as several water sanitation and hygiene projects, also in Kunene.
“At the Namibia Red Cross, we always prioritise the need to raise awareness on disaster risk management and the need to improve capacity for emergency preparedness rather than only response,” Secretary General of the Namibia Red Cross Bernadette Bock, said. “Over the years we have done this by building capacity and coping mechanisms of various communities to enable them to deal with whatever disaster they are faced with, without over reliance on outside aid.”
International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction began in 1989, after a call by the United Nations General Assembly for a day to promote a global culture of risk-awareness and disaster reduction. Held every 13 October, the day celebrates how people and communities around the world are reducing their exposure to disasters and raising awareness about the importance of mitigating the risks that they face.

Increasing costs
Bock highlighted that the costs associated with natural disasters or emergencies continue to increase, making response to and recovery from disasters very challenging. “Disasters affect people’s capacities to cope and recover after the event, leaving them vulnerable. Vulnerability is one of the defining components of disaster risk and concerns wider environmental and social conditions that limit people and communities to cope with the impacts of hazards.
“Since we cannot always reduce the occurrence and severity of natural hazards, we need to focus on reducing vulnerability or increasing community resilience levels as opportunities for reducing disaster risk. Some approaches might include implementing building codes, tailor making insurance, making social protection more shock responsive, emphasising economic diversity and resilient livelihoods, knowledge and awareness raising and implementing preparedness measures.
“We need to make the effort to understand people's capacity to resist and recover from disasters, as well as enhancing the overall resilience of people, society and systems. And this is where scientific and traditional knowledge should form the basis of outside interventions to reduce disaster risk,” Bock explained.
She added that government cannot do this alone, and partnerships are needed since good national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction must be multi-sectoral, linking various policies in a variety of sectors such as land use planning, public health, education, agriculture, environmental protection, energy, water resources, poverty reduction and climate change adaptation.

‘Concerted efforts’
“Namibia is currently dealing with outbreaks of Covid-19, Hepatitis E, locusts, gender-based violence and possible yet another drought, while other disasters linger in the shadows. This requires more concerted efforts in fighting these threats which are destabilizing our economy and society as a whole. We thus encourage individuals and organisations from all sectors to partner with us in this national cause,” she added, further stating that: “We are committed to working side-by-side with communities and community leaders to better understand the risks they face, mitigate common hazards, develop community action plans and conduct disaster trainings, collect and distribute relief items and implement early warning systems to better predict and react to threats.”
Notably, Namibia Red Cross has taken cue from its international counterparts in embracing Forecast-based Financing (FbF) which primes anticipation rather than reaction. Based on forecast information and risk analysis, FbF releases humanitarian funding for pre-agreed activities.
“The implementation of FbF by a Red Cross Society increases their wider preparedness to effectively respond to future disasters and emergencies as auxiliaries to Governmental actors,” Bock concluded.