Cairo, 9 June - The first comprehensive training on Disaster Risk Reduction in the Arab region gathered thirty leading specialists to discuss regional and global disaster risk trends. The course, organized by the UNDP Regional Centre for Arab States in Cairo (RCC), was held from 23-26th May in Cairo and provided valuable insight on disaster risk assessment, disaster mitigation and disaster preparedness.
The participants included UNDP experts from the Arab States region and their national counterparts and the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) Regional Office for Arab States. The training provided valuable insights into flood, drought and earthquake assessments methodologies in the Arab region and from other parts of the world.
“Disaster Risk Reduction is very important as a cross cutting issue for sustaining development in the region”, explained Philippe Puyo-Tschanz, the UNDP Disaster Risk Reduction Programme Specialist in Jordan. “The exposure to natural hazards is growing due to increasing population in cities that are not planned for this growth. Flash floods and earthquakes can set back the development of these countries by decades”, he added.
Arab Region: aggravating vulnerability to disasters
The Arab region is exposed to disaster risks from multiple hazards, especially droughts, flash floods, earthquakes, desertification, landslides, and storms/cyclones. According to Zubair Murshed, the regional Adviser for DRR at UNDP Regional Center in Cairo and responsible for the training, “prevalent poverty, conflicts and environmental degradation in the Arab region aggravate vulnerabilities of the Arab societies to disaster risks”.
The vulnerabilities of the region are also growing due to climate change. “Sustainable development of various Arab countries, including Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria is significantly hampered due to frequent and large scale disasters caused by droughts, desertification, flooding and forest fires. Other countries like Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan Oman and Egypt also faced localized disasters including flash flooding, localized droughts and cyclones”, explained Mr. Murshed.
However, the capacities of Arab governments to reduce disaster risks through effective risk analysis, planning, mitigation and preparedness are still limited. “There is a need to strengthen coordination, contingency planning and drills for disaster preparedness. Early warning systems for disasters like drought, floods, and cyclones are non-existent or weak in best cases”, explained Mr. Murshed.
In this context, the UN system - coordinated by the UNISDR Secretariat - is enhancing the governmental capacities and improving policies to deal with disaster risk reduction effectively. UNDP has also set up DRR capacity development programmes in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. “Through these projects, UNDP country offices are supporting governments in risk analysis, DRR education programmes, training of government officials, DRR planning and policy development and institutional strengthening”, explained Mr. Murshed.