News

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All have stake in World Conference

For the third time in thirty years, Japan is preparing to host a World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.
27 Feb 2014 News briefs

Small islands lead by example, says UNISDR chief

Statement by Margareta Wahlström, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction on the launch of the International Year of Small Island Developing States
24 Feb 2014 Statements & speeches

Pacific forges ahead on joint disaster-climate strategy

United Nations agencies have joined together to contribute towards the development a new Strategy for Disaster and Climate Resilient Development in the Pacific (SRDP). As a core partner of the Technical Working Group for the new Strategy along with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) hosted and engaged expert representatives from UNDP, UNICEF, WHO and UN Women amongst others, to join in an interactive engagement workshop on 20 January 2014. The workshop formed part of a series of ongoing stakeholder engagements to facilitate the development of a new strategy to succeed the current ‘Pacific Disaster Risk Reduction and Disaster Management Framework for Action’ and ‘Pacific Islands Framework for Action on Climate Change’, both due to expire in 2015.
21 Jan 2014 News briefs

Local self-assessment leads to resilience

UNISDR’s Local Government Self-Assessment Tool (LGSAT) is an effective tool to assess a city’s institutional capacity to build resilience, a new report has found. The study said the LGSAT opened up dialogue and enabled the establishment of baseline data for the Ten Essentials of UNISDR’s Making Cities Resilient Campaign “that can be used to track progress as the cities continue to build disaster and climate resilience”. The report, titled ‘Assessing City Resilience: Lessons from using the UNISDR Local Government Self-Assessment Tool in Thailand and Vietnam’, said the LGSAT enabled local discussions to take place within an internationally-applied framework of common issues. The study looked at four cities – Hue and Lao Cai, in Vietnam, and Udon Thani and Hat Yai, in Thailand – and identified gaps between policy and practice, and between planning and implementation.
10 Jan 2014 News briefs

Philippines unveils dedicated disaster risk budget for 2014

The Philippines’ national budget for 2014 has ensured dedicated funding for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation programmes. The move, just weeks after the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, represents a significant change in the country’s funding priorities to include proactive disaster risk management as well as a focus on response and rehabilitation. A new US$293 million National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund replaces what was previously known as the Calamity Fund, which had a previous budget of US$158 million.
30 Dec 2013 News briefs

Local leaders pinpoint key to early warning success

Local leaders in cyclone-hit Odisha said their successful early warning ahead of the recent Cyclone Phailin was down to good information that was delivered on time and acted upon quickly. On a tour of cyclone-ravaged Ganjam district, the Head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Ms Margareta Wahlström, heard that 30,000 people had been evacuated in less than 30 hours. The District Collector of Ganjam, Mr Krishan Kumar, said the prompt movement of people from villages within 5km of the coast was crucial in dramatically reducing the number of casualties.
24 Dec 2013 News briefs

Cyclone evacuation to become a global example

The effective evacuation of almost 1 million people in Odisha ahead of Cyclone Phailin will be highlighted as a global example in the lead-up to the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, in 2015. The Head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Ms Margareta Wahlström, lauded Odisha for its ‘landmark success’ actions in limiting the number of deaths directly caused by the cyclone to 21. “We have started work on documenting the Odisha success story and will highlight it as an example at the World Conference. It is easy to talk about problems and failures. We have to bring into people’s minds what works,” Ms Wahlström said.
23 Dec 2013 News briefs

Cebu ready to build back better

The Philippines Province of Cebu prides itself on its zero casualty policy when it comes to disasters. As of yesterday, it had recorded just 73 of the 6,057 deaths so far attributed to Typhoon Haiyan despite the widespread damage and loss to housing, critical infrastructure and agriculture especially in northern Cebu where Haiyan made two of its six landfalls in the Philippines. Governor Hilario Davide III explained: “I would credit the low fatalities first to the people themselves and the local government units who heeded our advice and warnings to evacuate people from the areas that were most vulnerable to the typhoon.” Some estimates put the number of people who evacuated in Cebu as high as one million. The Governor also said that the earthquake which hit in October may have been a strange blessing in disguise as it gave people a sharp reminder of the threat posed by natural hazards.
16 Dec 2013 News briefs

Bieber puts spotlight on disaster zone schools

Pop idol Justin Bieber paid a surprise visit to the San Jose Elementary School in Tacloban this week. He stayed about 30 minutes, hugged the kids, sang a few songs, signed some autographs and landed on the front pages of all the Philippine newspapers. If nothing else, his visit brought a spotlight to bear on the precarious lives of thousands of children with no school to go to for the last four weeks. Over 600 schools were destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan. Despite a government instruction for classes to re-open on December 2, many, such as the Anibong Elementary School overlooking the ship-strewn shoreline of the neighbourhoods known as barangays 68 and 70, remain packed with evacuees.
13 Dec 2013 News briefs

Re-location, re-location, re-location…

The ground floor patients including those in intensive care had a narrow escape. Indeed, as the tidal surge broke through the hospital’s perimeter wall security guards had to come and rescue the director of Leyte Island’s largest public hospital, the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC), as he struggled waist deep in water in his hospital residence overlooking the sea. Dr. Cirilo R. Galindez who is now on secondment from Luzon as acting hospital director, describes the frenetic activity following the slow realization that the hospital was about to be inundated by sea-water as a result of Typhoon Haiyan in the early dawn hours of November 8. “In about twenty minutes they had to move all the patients from the ground floor to the second floor including those in the intensive care unit. The staff did a superb job and there were no casualties among the patients,” he said.
12 Dec 2013 News briefs

Private sector to the fore in Haiyan response

Private sector representatives took their place today alongside the usual line-up of NGOs and international organizations who came together to brainstorm a rehabilitation plan for those parts of Cebu province which suffered significant losses because of Typhoon Haiyan (known in the Philippines as Yolanda). Governor Hilario Davide III said the plan would be ready for launch in mid-January and praised the private sector for its active partnership with the provincial government in both the relief effort and now in the planning for the rehabilitation phase. “Public-private partnerships will become increasingly important as we move from the response phase to rehabilitation and seek to build back better,” he said.
11 Dec 2013 News briefs

Tacloban to call typhoon summit

The City of Tacloban which accounts for almost 50% of the dead and displaced in the Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) disaster, is to hold a summit inviting mayors and other public representatives to come to the city to talk about the lessons learned for disaster risk management. The announcement comes with recognition by the city authorities that there were several barriers to compliance with evacuation procedures despite many sweeps through the most exposed neighbourhoods – or Barangays as they are known in the Philippines – by teams of local volunteers and officials led by the Barangay captains. Three days before Typhoon Haiyan struck, a meeting was called by the City Mayor, Alfred Romualdez, of all 138 Barangay Captains to be briefed on the coming storm and they were all instructed to order their constituents to evacuate. The meeting was reportedly attended by about 75% of all Barangay captains.
10 Dec 2013 News briefs

30 days on Tacloban remembers

Sunday marked thirty days since Typhoon Haiyan (known as Yolanda locally) tried to rip the heart out of the Eastern Visayas region of the Philippines with winds from hell that sucked the sea along with them to take the lives of thousands and leave millions homeless. The strength of the Philippine people in the wake of one of the worst typhoons ever to make landfall, is something special to behold. Yesterday they even managed to turn on some Christmas lights in the centre of Tacloban, the commercial heart of the disaster zone, despite the continuing curfew and absence of street lighting. The predominantly Catholic city remembered its dead on the Second Sunday of Advent as hundreds packed into the partly roofless Church of Santa Ninõ to give thanks for the gift of life and to receive the only kind of psychological support available here for those who have been traumatized by the loss of family and friends: the age old solace of religion.
9 Dec 2013 News briefs

Haiyan experiences confirm disability survey findings

This year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction published a survey that revealed how people living with disabilities are extremely vulnerable during times of disaster. Eighty percent would be unable to evacuate immediately without difficulty in the event of sudden disaster. Six percent said they would not be able to evacuate at all. The survey, published on October 13, also revealed that 71 percent of respondents have no personal preparedness plan for disasters. Only 31 percent always have someone to help them evacuate while 13 percent never do. On the plus side, respondents and their care-givers told vivid stories of resourceful people struggling against exclusion. In the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, in the Philippines, a similar picture of people living with disabilities and their care-givers in times of disaster is emerging: they are both vulnerable as well as remarkably resilient. Below, five snapshots tell how people living with disabilities and their care-givers were affected by Typhoon Haiyan and how they are now facing up to rebuilding their lives and livelihoods. The stories were originally told by Chelsea Huggett of CBM International.
29 Nov 2013 News briefs

DRR takes centre stage of typhoon recovery

Disaster risk reduction is emerging as central to the Philippines’ recovery and reconstruction plans in the wake of the devastating Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda. One of several leaders supporting increased investment in resilient structures is Mayor Ian Christopher Escario of Bantayan municipality, who oversaw a mass evacuation that limited the number of deaths to 15 people out of 90,000 in the face of the typhoon. “We were able to evacuate 30,000 people a couple of days before using sirens and radio messages. People were informed but nobody could foresee the violence of the storm surge,” Mayor Escario said. “Now we need to invest more in resilient infrastructures as all the roofs of the buildings have been blown away. Economic losses are huge and we are still assessing the damages and will take the necessary lessons of what happened.”
26 Nov 2013 News briefs

UNISDR launches new video competition

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) is launching a new video clip competition under the theme “Promoting Investments for Resilient Nations and Communities”. The initiative, in partnership with the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM) of Thailand and Thai Public Broadcasting Service, follows the success of the Film Festival at the Fifth Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, in Indonesia, in October 2012. “We invite all participants, youth, students, media, film makers, experts and the general public to participate in the video competition and to see how they view disaster risk reduction issues. Their voice matters to us especially now we are discussing the successor of the Hyogo Framework for Action” said Brigitte Leoni of the UNISDR Asia Pacific office.
25 Nov 2013 News briefs

CEOs: 'We have resilience tools, let's use them'

More than 50 CEOs and top managers from the insurance, bank, airline, retail, real estate and other industries in Asia gathered today in Manila to consider incentives and benchmarking tools to make their corporations more resilient against disasters. The meeting comes two weeks after the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, which, according to latest official figures, killed 5,209 people and continues to affect more than 10 million Filipinos. The host of the forum, Mr. Hans T. Sy, President of SM Prime Holdings Inc, the country’s largest mall operator, said: “The effect of climate change is coming sooner than expected. In the Philippines alone, we have experienced 104 significant typhoons and 72 floods since 2002.”
22 Nov 2013 News briefs

Philippines launches safe schools campaign post-Haiyan

The Philippines today looked to the future and launched a new “Safe Schools” campaign with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) even as the country continues to deal with the many humanitarian needs left behind by Typhoon Haiyan/ Yolanda including the fact that thousands of children are unable to return to education because over 600 schools have been destroyed and 1.7 million children have lost their homes. Margareta Wahlström, the head of UNISDR, helped launch the initiative which will target 48,000 public schools, with the Under Secretary for the Department of Education, Dina Ocampo, Senator Loren Legarda and the UNDP Country Director, Tohishiro Tanaka. Under the slogan, “How Safe is Your School?” the programme is designed to raise public awareness and build social demand for safety checks, disaster preparedness, and school education on disaster risk reduction.
21 Nov 2013 Press release

Safe schools key to sustainable development

A new programme on school safety launched yesterday in the Philippines less than two weeks after the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan urges pupils, teachers and communities to proactively assess the resilience and preparedness of their schools. The unveiling of the "How Safe Is Your School?” initiative in the Philippines is the first step of what the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) intends will be formalized as a global initiative at the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, in Japan, in March 2015.
21 Nov 2013 News briefs

Private sector key to typhoon recovery

The private sector will be crucial to the massive recovery effort in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the Philippines’ top chief executives said. “A lot is expected from the private sector in the rehabilitation of calamity-stricken areas in the Philippines,” said Mr. Hans T. Sy, the President of SM Prime Holdings Inc, the country’s largest mall operator. “We, from the private sector, are more than willing to help and are already doing our share in helping the communities. With the Typhoon Haiyan experience, as well as the Bohol earthquake, more businesses are convinced to invest in disaster resilience,” said Mr Sy, who is also a member of the UN Office for Risk Reduction’s (UNISDR) Private Sector Advisory Group. “The Philippines is prone to natural hazards such as severe weather conditions and earthquakes. The more businesses invest in resilience, the sooner we can get back to normal after disasters.”
20 Nov 2013 News briefs

Pacific unites on development agenda

The small islands of the Pacific continue to lead the world in efforts to unite climate change and disaster risk reduction initiatives under one development agenda. “Sustainable development for us is a matter of national security,” said Mr David Sheppard, the Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), before a packed forum entitled ‘Meeting the sustainability challenge in the post-2015 era: A vision for resilient nations, large and small’. “We are working to protect people and the environment and that means we have to support livelihoods in a way that reinforces sustainable development and builds on the rich tradition of human settlement in the Pacific. There are many examples of Pacific solutions being tailored for Pacific problems.”
20 Nov 2013 News briefs

Evacuation saves whole island from Typhoon Haiyan

The prompt evacuation of 1,000 people from a tiny island that had all 500 houses destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan saved the entire population according to a local leader who has been a long-time champion for disaster risk reduction. The former Mayor of San Francisco, Cebu Province, Alfredo Arquillano, said years of work to strengthen community preparedness and reduce disaster risk prevented a catastrophe for the residents of Tulang Diyot. San Francisco is officially recognized as a role model by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) in a highly hazard-prone part of the world. “The day before, when it was clear how bad the typhoon would be, we decided to evacuate all 1,000 people. Because we’ve done so much work on disaster risk everyone fully understood the need to move to safety,” Mr. Arquillano said. He is still referred to locally as Mayor Al.
15 Nov 2013 News briefs

Philippines poor bear brunt of disasters

It is the poor and people engaged in family-based and informal sector enterprises who will bear the brunt of typhoon Haiyan. As initial estimates of economic losses from the disaster are put at up to $US 15 billion, or 5 per cent of the Philippines’ annual GDP, the Head of Advocacy and Outreach of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Mr Jerry Velasquez, said: “It is a common theme across Asia that marginal farmers, fishermen, small-scale entrepreneurs and poor urban households shoulder the greatest losses from disasters.”
14 Nov 2013 News briefs

Senator urges ‘don’t rebuild risks again’

As the Philippines embarks on a massive recovery effort in the wake of super typhoon Haiyan, one of the country’s leading senators said it is vital that “we do not rebuild the risks again”. Senator Loren Legarda lent her full support to ongoing efforts in search and rescue and emergency relief but also emphasized the need for a longer term vision of reconstruction that will reduce the vulnerability and exposure of communities to hazards. “Affected citizens immediately need food, water, clothing, shelter and medicines but we must now also start addressing the need to rehabilitate affected communities,” said Sen. Legarda, who is Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change. “It will not be enough to build people’s lives and communities to where they were before the disaster; we need to rebuild communities with the confidence that we are not rebuilding the risks again.
13 Nov 2013 News briefs

Philippines plea: 'stop this climate madness'

The Philippines’ lead negotiator at the UN Climate Change Convention, whose home town was devastated by super typhoon Haiyan, told today’s conference opening that “disasters are never natural”. “We must stop calling events like these as natural disasters,” Mr Yeb Sano said in his address to the Convention's 19th Conference of the Parties in Warsaw. “It is not natural when people continue to struggle to eradicate poverty and pursue development and get battered by the onslaught of a monster storm. “Disasters are never natural. They are the intersection of factors other than physical. They are the accumulation of the constant breach of economic, social and environmental thresholds.
11 Nov 2013 News briefs

Disability survey: youngster calls for inclusive future

– Filled with the desire to share his story, a young wheelchair user, together with his three classmates, shared his experience and vision for a more inclusive and safer community for everyone. “Supporting each other is very important, as I always experienced in my school. I wish that such support will emanate not just in a school, but also throughout a community,” said Mr. Takuro Suzuki who is a third year in a junior high school. “This would contribute to building an inclusive community where everyone, including persons with disability and elderly, feels comfortable to live safely.”
11 Nov 2013 News briefs

Biggest storm of 2013 set to hit Philippines

The Philippines’ comprehensive disaster risk management strategy has swung into action as the country braces itself for the arrival tomorrow of the planet’s strongest storm this year As super typhoon Haiyan bears down on the Philippines, the country’s President, Mr. Benigno Aquino, has directed maximum efforts to achieve the government’s zero casualty goal, which lies at the heart of the country’s disaster planning. A series of risk management and preparedness measures have clicked into action across regions and provinces that potentially lie in the typhoon’s path, including the planned evacuation of almost two million.
7 Nov 2013 News briefs

Tsunami city ‘starts from zero’

The Mayor of a Japanese city devastated by the March 2011 tsunami aims to make his municipality a global leader of inclusive redevelopment. Mr Futoshi Toba, the Mayor of Rikuzenkata City in Iwate prefecture, said: “We can start from zero and make sure that every citizen is integrated in the planning and reconstruction process, in particular those persons with disabilities and the elderly people who were the most exposed by the 11 March disaster.” The Mayor was speaking during the visit of Ms Margareta Wahlström, the Head of the UN office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). “Rikuzentakata has the opportunity to become a model city for the world,” the Mayor said. “Our city will have a lot to showcase on inclusive reconstruction processes that can help other cities in the world to be better prepared against disasters. We hope to share this experience to the world.”
5 Nov 2013 News briefs

Farmers reap fruits of risk management

Fijian papaya farmers and exporters whose businesses were devastated by a 2012 cyclone are emerging from near bankruptcy with better protected livelihoods thanks to a stronger approach to disaster risk management. Last December’s Cyclone Evan decimated crops and slashed papaya exports by almost 90 per cent prompting an industry-wide rethink on how such a catastrophic experience could be minimized in future. As a result, beleaguered farmers and exporters are changing practices to address increasing climate extremes: production is spreading away from traditional crop heartlands; budgets increasingly factor in contingency for disasters; planting is on smaller blocks and a more regular basis; seed trees are selected to suit local conditions more; and bigger stocks of seed are in store to accelerate post-disaster recovery.
31 Oct 2013 News briefs

Build resilient towns to avoid loss during disasters

Today marks the anniversary of the 1999 Super Cyclone that killed almost 10,000 people and washed away decades of development in the Indian State of Odisha. In the 14 years since the disaster, Odisha denotes 29 October as National Day for Disaster Reduction. This year’s event has added resonance as it comes days after Cyclone Phailin caused widespread devastation in Odisha. In today’s edition of The Pioneer, the second oldest English newspaper in India and one of the country’s leading publications, Dr Piyush Ranjan Rout, an Advocate for UNISDR’s Making Cities Resilient Campaign and cofounder of the Local Governance Network in India, says Odisha’s disaster management has improved dramatically but still more needs to be done. An edited abstract appears below. Odisha has 480km of coastline, from Baleswar in the north to Ganjam in the south, drained by six peninsular river systems: Subarnarekha, Budhabalang, Brahmani, Baitarani, Mahanadi, Rushikulya and their tributaries.
29 Oct 2013 News briefs

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