International Strategy for Disaster Reduction   


Review of 8 MDGs’ relevance for disaster risk reduction and vice-versa

GOAL 1: Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger

Extreme poverty and hunger have many consequences for the human condition in general and also specifically in relation to disaster risk reduction. These broadly include increasing the likelihood of populations living in more hazard prone areas, having less protection against disaster impact, lowering coping capacity during and after the hazardous event, severely hampering the recovery period, as well as negating many of the development gains achieved prior to the event integrating disaster risk assessment in poverty planning tools like Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) - in the same way as environmental assessment is integrated in development planning - would ensure strengthening this nexus. However only 8 (Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique and Bangladesh ,Vietnam, Pakistan, Bolivia) of the 32 completed PRSPs were identified by the World Bank Hazard Management Unit as incorporating aspects of DRR. The DFID report provides practical guidance to donors as entry points into the PRSP and UNDAF processes for integrating DRR:

1) Collaborating with World Bank Hazard Management Unit
2) Technical Advice to Governments on opportunities for integrating DRR in PRSPs
3) Funding for DRR initiatives in PRSPs

UNDP and the ISDR Secretariat are spearheading the development of a common guidance note on how to integrate DRR in the Common Country Assessment (CCA) and United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) processes by applying risk assessment, developing alternative scenarios and involving ISDR National Platforms in the process of preparing CCAs and UNDAFs.

The provision of risk/loss spreading mechanisms for those excluded from insurance cover is a critical intervention to ensure that eradicating extreme poverty is harmonized with reducing risk of potential losses from disasters like drought, floods, cyclones and earthquakes.

INDIA: Micro-finance helps spread risk for the poor

In India, women’s high level of self-organization at local level enables partnerships between women’s groups and private and public organizations engaged in risk reduction and disaster response. The Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a trade union registered in 1972 to represent low-income women workers in India’s vast informal sector, is a case in point. To protect its membership against risks such as unemployment, poverty, natural disasters and sickness, SEWA offers its members a variety of micro insurance packages.

Under a basic scheme, members can secure insurance against hospitalisation for up to US$ 43, house and asset insurance for up to US$ 110, and accidental death insurance for US$ 870. The cost of this package, which also offers benefits against natural death and the accidental death of one’s husband, is a fixed deposit US$ 22 and an annual premium of US$ 1.85. More expensive schemes offer more protection against natural death, hospitalisation and loss of house and assets. Over 10 years, 2,000 women have received some US$ 327,400 in claims.

SEWA has regularly assisted its members, mostly women with marginal incomes from small farms or handicrafts, to spread the risk of income losses from draughts and cyclones through insurance and micro-finance measures.
In the aftermath of the Gujarat earthquake in 2001, SEWA was instrumental in providing insurance benefits and micro-finance to regenerate destroyed livelihoods, homes, and working capital and assets. Within two weeks, SEWA’s insurance team surveyed over 2,500 insured members’ claims of damage and asset loss, mainly destruction of houses. Working closely with local associations in the three worst-affected districts, the insurance team carefully documented asset losses.

SEWA, Jivika : Livelihood Security Project for Earthquake affected rural households in Gujarat and

GOAL 2: Achieving universal primary education
Education is one the preconditions for human development – for broadening choices and for the realization of human potential. As such, it is also one of the principal means for lessening human vulnerability. Disaster occurrences greatly hamper the education process in many ways, with human loss and injury, social upheaval, school property damage and closings, and often with children having to leave school for long periods in the recovery period - their families needing their help in meeting basic needs. Some of these children will not get another change to attend school, which deepens the vicious cycle of educational lack and vulnerability.

The massive infusion of international development assistance to fulfil the commitment to get in school 100 million school-aged children who presently do not attend takes no account of the seismic safety of the old schools and new ones that will be built to accommodate these children (Ben Wisner et al., School Seismic Safety: Falling Between the Cracks, 2004)

However, many best practices exist on how DRR can be integrated in attaining the MDG related to primary education.

More seismic-safe schools built all over the world

In many earthquakes around the world, school buildings which were not built as per hazard resistant standards collapsed, causing severe setback to primary education.

  • Skopje, Yugoslavia, 1963 – 44 schools destroyed (57% of school building stock)
  • El Asnam, Algeria, 1989 – 70-85 schools collapsed or were severely damaged
  • Pereira, Colombia, 1999 – 74% of schools damaged
  • Xinjiang, China, 2003 – dozens of schools collapsed
  • Boumerdes, Algeria, 2003 – 130 schools suffered extensive to complete damage

However, many countries like Turkey, Colombia, India and Indonesia are learning from past experiences and are incorporating seismic safety standards into newer constructions consistent with hazard risks. The table from National Reports and Best Practice Public Forum at the January 2005 World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe, Japan, illustrates a few examples.

GOAL 3: Promoting gender equality and empowering women

During and after disasters, women play a primary role in providing assistance to the family and community in disaster prevention activities. They are frequently, disproportionately and negatively affected by disaster impact and can also face targeted gender-based violence and exploitation in the aftermath of disasters. Women are often left out of formal planning and decision making, and marginalized from community authority. As such, their needs and concerns are many times overlooked, as their profound contributions frequently go unrecognized.

UNDP-BCPR (Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery) calls for “enabling women to confront disaster risk”, adding that “reforms in land and dwelling ownership, inheritance and employment rights are likely to be as important as the needs to strengthen the social justice concerns of women in accessing health, education and legal services.”

Country Practices :Promoting gender equality and empowering women through disaster risk reduction

In Armenia NGO’s such as “Women for Development” (National Survey for Seismic Protection) have been working towards including seismic protection courses in the school curriculum. They have promoted inclusion of education games and enhancing women’s participation as specialists in spheres where men dominate greatly (in disaster survey, academic field, emergency service, civil protection etcetera).

In the Punjab , Pakistan, local fairs and festivals called “Sakhi melas” or Festivals of Women are held. These fairs provide opportunities for women living in the riverine areas to share social concerns with fellow women and to discuss whether their demands to the local government have been met. The use of different means of self expression such as skits at these festivals provided tremendous scope for integrating disaster related messages. The example reiterates the fact that in areas where literacy levels are low, disaster reduction awareness also needs to be tailored to take into account the specific contexts of its target audience. Therefore, incorporating DRR awareness into popular modes of expression such as theatre, drama, poetry and story-telling have proved effective communication methods.

In 2001 and 2003, EIRD, OPS-OMS, PNUD and CEPREDENAC collaborated in a DRR programme that used a radio soap opera as a gender balanced risk awareness tool at the community level. The radio programme used non-sexist language and incorporated language and story-lines that were consciously targeted at women. Lower costs and accessibility to regions where conventional means of communication were absent were important factors in choosing the radio as a means of disseminating information. The programme was broadcast across 46 community radio stations including Panamá, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and over the internet based Radio Feminista Internacional in Costa Rica.

GOAL 4: Reducing child mortality (children below the age of five)

Infants and young children are among the most vulnerable segments of any given population. In the aftermath of disasters, interrupted basic infrastructure, stretched emergency and health care facilities, the outbreak of disease epidemics, and the loss or injury of care givers and income earners make young children even more susceptible to physical and emotional trauma.

GOAL 5: Improving maternal health

In households where basic needs are hardly met, the pressure of post-disaster impact can eliminate the possibility of adequate maternal care as stretched resources can only cover immediate survival requirements. Additionally, in many cases, gender inequity gives women less access to household income and assets. Disaster risk reduction efforts that include gender issues at the outset have proven necessary in addressing the improvement of maternal health.

GOAL 6: Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases of epidemic proportions make infected populations more vulnerable in all circumstances. In the wake of disaster impact, their vulnerability is further increased. Economically and socially marginalized and usually highly disadvantaged infected populations often suffer even greater impact during the event, and in its aftermath, than others in their community. With basic infrastructure being damaged and interrupted, water-borne and insect vector diseases can escalate rapidly, which severely hampers recovery and development efforts, thus making a community even more vulnerable than before the event. Additionally, overburdened health care facilities can make regular treatments impossible, with food and medical shortages further exacerbating the situation.

HIV/AIDS Control and DRR: A Common Agenda in Southern Africa

Due to its enormous social and economic impacts on communities, HIV/AIDS constitutes a major vulnerability factor for other natural hazards. In particular, HIV/AIDS exacerbates vulnerability to drought conditions. The situation is very critical in Southern Africa, facing catastrophic consequences of HIV/AIDS infection. With many countries recording adult HIV infection rates of 25-30 per cent, the 1990s have seen the deaths of thousands of skilled people occupying middle-management positions in the private and public sectors. Precious opportunities to develop sustainable local and technical capacities in disaster risk reduction have been undermined by continuing HIV-related deaths. With its far-reaching effects that span all professions, social sectors and communities in Southern Africa, HIV/AIDS will continue to constitute a major aspect of both household and national vulnerability for the foreseeable future.

Adapted from “Living with Risk”, UN/ISDR, 2004

GOAL 7: Ensuring environmental sustainability

The link between environmental degradation and disaster occurrence and impact is well documented. Deforestation and soil erosion increase mudslides, landslides and flash flooding. Desertification increases drought. Climate change and variability is one of the causal factors of extreme weather events. These connections are well recognized, even though they are not fully understood yet. Degradation of the resource base leads directly to less access to resource-based livelihoods, migration to marginal and often more hazard-prone areas, rural-urban migration - often into increasingly more vulnerable urban slums. It also affects the natural resilience and recovery period of a given environment to extreme events. As echoed by the UNDP publication entitled “Reducing Disaster Risk”, strategies to enhance environmental sustainability, like prior environmental impact assessments of all developmental projects, participatory management of biodiversity and ecosystem resources like forest, wildlife and natural watersheds, contribute to breaking the chain of accumulated risk. There are many good practices which can be applied widely.

Ensuring environmental sustainability in Bangladesh

Soil anchoring practices, mangrove protection programmes and the Bangladesh Coastal Greenbelt Project undertaken by the Bangladesh Ministry of Environment and Forests seek to:

  • Prevent loss of life and damage to property by cyclones, storms and associated tidal surges;
  • Protect and improve the coastal environment through increased vegetation;
  • Help alleviate poverty by generating income through increased tree cover and related activities;
  • Increase forest resources;
  • Increase coastal embankment stability;
  • Establish industries based on forest plantation;
  • Increase multiple uses for land;
  • Create popular awareness on sustainable forest management.

MDG # 1 idea of “Change Agents” - people who are trained in disseminating disaster awareness and knowledge through community, family and people-based early warning systems and who are also trained in first aid - ensured the safeguarding of livelihoods against frequent floods and cyclones.

GOAL 8: Developing a global partnership for development

Mainstreaming disaster risk reduction continues to gain momentum at all levels with development efforts increasingly including risk reduction considerations – and with risk reduction initiatives also further incorporating wider development viewpoints. The World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) process now formally links disaster risk reduction with global development efforts as do the national, regional and global meetings of the Programme of Action for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which include nation-states highly susceptible to many hazardous events, and which historically have suffered high disaster impact. Continued and further interconnection of disaster risk reduction and sustainable development agendas at local, national, regional and global levels remain a critical and mutually beneficial target.

The UNDP on MDG 8 “Global Partnerships for Development Change”

The most important components of this goal relate to trade, debt relief and aid. Success rests to a large extent on the willingness of developed countries to meet their commitments. The 2001 Ministerial Meeting of the WTO (World Trade Organization) in Doha placed the needs and interests of the developing countries at the heart of WTO negotiations. However, in 2003, the subsequent stalemate in the Cancun round of WTO negotiations showed greater political will, collaborative thinking and action is required at the international level to allow developing countries to trade on a level playing field.

More progress has been made in debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. Some 26 countries have now entered this process. The HIPC process is reinforced by international financial agencies that have integrated disaster lending into their portfolios.

Official Development Assistance (ODA) climbed in 2002 after nearly a decade in decline, but remains well below the target of 0.7 percent of donor countries’ GDP. The amount of money provided for emergency and distress relief is small, fluctuating in response to annual crises. However, as a proportion of ODA, emergency and distress relief has steadily increased from 1.9 percent in 1986 to 3.2 percent in 1991, reaching a peak of 7.8 percent in 1999 and since declining to 6.3 percent in 2001. Within this percentage, the ODA oriented towards disaster risk management remains minimal.

ISDR has succeeded in building regional and international partnerships for disaster risk reduction and in disseminating good practice. Similarly, negotiations around the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) most recently focused on the Kyoto Protocol, also provide a focus for international attention that can directly address the concerns of disaster risk reduction.

Source: Reducing Disaster Risk: A Challenge for Development
United Nations Development Programme
Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery

The UN Millennium Project on MDGs

The report entitled Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals lays out practical plans for achieving MDGs by 2015. Its main focus is on obtaining international commitment and donor resources for scaling up country plans to achieve MDGs by 2015. DRR issues are prioritised within a category of countries vulnerable to natural hazards. Vulnerability to natural hazards like quakes, cyclones and floods, is cited under Adverse Geographical conditions. However, the analysis of both vulnerability to disasters as a retardant in achieving MDGs and steps necessary for mainstreaming disaster risk reduction within MDG efforts is somewhat limited. For example, the report mentions that countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly southern Africa, are unlikely to attain MDGs at the current pace, but vulnerabilities to disasters (drought, floods) are not explored in depth, even though all of these intervene in depressing livelihood and keeping countries in poverty traps.

Even though significant progress has been made in some countries, China and India, which are growing rapidly and are therefore likely to attain the MDGs, have reported that they have not significantly reduced their underlying disaster risks. Hence attainment of MDGs in these countries may be adversely affected: frequent disasters may cause developmental losses and downward spiral of incomes for many vulnerable groups. To address this, China’s National MDG Report identifies disasters as a critical constraint in the path of attaining MDG 1.

The Millennium Report recommends a five-fold strategy for reducing losses from disasters:

  • Strategies to reduce disaster losses need to be mainstreamed in PRSPs;
  • Infrastructure investment to incorporate DRR;
  • Social safety nets for the vulnerable, particularly through Government provisions;
  • Early warning capacities and information campaigns supported by Governments;
  • Pre-crisis emergency and contingency planning.

Palais des Nations
CH 1211 Geneva 10,
Tel: +41 22 9172103/762/759
Fax: +41 22 9170563