ON THE INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR DISASTER REDUCTION
Disasters, Targeting Vulnerability"
10 October 2001
The annual observance of the International Day for Disaster Reduction
offers an opportunity for the world community to focus its attention
on preventing natural disasters and improving the way we deal with
the consequences. The past year has seen no let-up in the growing
incidence of natural disasters. Powerful earthquakes struck India,
El Salvador and Peru; floods ravaged Africa and South Asia; droughts
continued to plague Afghanistan, Central America, and Sri Lanka;
and volcanic activity has again struck Ecuador. The global toll
of devastation and death has left families and economies reeling.
And in some cases, natural disasters can amplify man-made emergencies,
as we are all too aware from unfolding events in Afghanistan.
Along with the growing number of natural disasters, vulnerability
is also increasing. While no country is entirely safe, poorer countries
in particular lack the capacity to and prevent and prepare for
disasters. With the urban population of developing countries having
reached more than 1.3 billion, people are forced to inhabit disaster-prone
areas such as flood plains and deforested lands. Inadequate planning
and land-use further raise the risks.
The International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) aims
to limit the losses and suffering. The strategy calls on local
communities to mobilize, for example by developing risk maps and
early warning systems. It urges Governments to create and enforce
strict building codes. And it seeks to exploit scientific and technical
knowledge to devise responses that go beyond short-term humanitarian
assistance. United Nations agencies and their partners are strongly
committed to carrying out this strategy by bringing people and
expertise together in the search for solutions.
Natural hazards will always challenge us. But it is within our
power to ensure that poverty does not turn hazards into unmanageable
disasters. And it is within our power to join forces, address the
immense complexities of disaster reduction, and build a world of
resilient communities and nations equipped to counter the adverse
impact of natural hazards and related environmental and technological