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Africa Taking a Proactive Position on Mitigating Disaster Risk

African leaders present at the 4th High Level Meeting on Disaster Risk Reduction. Photo by UNISDR.

African leaders present at the 4th High Level Meeting on Disaster Risk Reduction. Photo by UNISDR.

Globally, Kenya and Ethiopia are among the top ten countries affected by disasters. In 2014, 6.8 million Africans were directly affected by a total of 114 recorded disasters according to United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

African governments have been keen to find a more strategic and localised plan to help reduce the effect of disasters on national and regional economies.

Disaster risk is defined as follows by the Asian Disaster Reduction Center:

Earthquakes, storms and torrential rains, are natural phenomena we refer to as “hazards” and are not considered to be disasters in and of themselves. For instance, an earthquake that occurs on a desert island does not trigger a disaster because there is no existing population or property affected. In addition to a hazard, some “vulnerability” to the natural phenomenon must be present for an event to constitute a natural disaster. “Vulnerability” is defined as a condition resulting from physical, social, economic, and environmental factors or processes, which increases the susceptibility of a community to the impact of a hazard.

Together African leaders have developed a new disaster risk reduction plan out of the Sendai Framework 2015-2030 to help reduce the cost of disasters.

The Sendai Framework is a 15-year, voluntary, non-binding agreement which recognizes “that the state has the primary role in reducing disaster risk but that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders including local government, the private sector and other stakeholders.”

It has four priorities:

  • Improving risk governance
  • Understanding disaster risk
  • Investing in resilience and enhancing preparedness for effective response
  • Recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.

African leaders organised the first intergovernmental session on implementing the Sendai Framework 2015-2030 agreement since its adoption in March by the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan. Africa is the first continent to have organised a Sendai Framework implementation plan.

Rosemary Forest, Disaster Project Cordinator for Move The World, emphasised the need for the plan to focus on protecting livelihoods and productive assets:

According to Ms. Margareta Wahlström, head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, “Africa is setting the pace for the post-2015 Development Agenda through its clear statement of high-level commitment to achieving substantial reductions in disaster losses.”

Marie Chantal Mfoula, Diplomatic and Policy Advisor at ECCAS, stated that:

Our hope is that at the end of our discussions, Africa will have a holistic programme that folds in resilient development, focusing on the need for dialogue between all stakeholders, such as those involved in climate change, the farming and pastoralist sectors, energy, health, urban and infrastructure development.

According to the UNISDR website, the African leaders developed some crucial targets in order to implement the Sendai Framework:

The governments endorsed a series of targets drawn up over the previous two days in Yaoundé by experts at the 7th Africa Working Group Meeting on Disaster Risk Reduction. Among them are creating a mechanism to share best practices by 2016, having risk-sensitive investment plans by 2017, and, by 2018, establishing strengthened early warning systems, a disaster risk trust fund, and standardized methodology, guidelines, procedures and tools for risk assessment and analysis. Besides asking the African Union to lead and coordinate the process, the Yaoundé Declaration also urges member states and Africa’s regional communities to align their own strategies with the Sendai Framework, and asks ministers of planning, economy and finance to fold disaster risk reduction into their policies. Finally, it calls on Africa’s development partners to prioritize support for implementing disaster risk reduction strategies. Last week, the European Union announced an 80-million-euro, five-year package to boost risk reduction in Africa.

Jonathan Fowler recommended that Africa needs to learn from Asia in order to reduce the impact disasters have on the continent:

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