Today we celebrate the International Day for Disaster Reduction. I have to say that before coming to World Concern, I was not really aware of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and the magnitude of its importance. I knew that prevention was important but I often only thought of it within the realm of health. The more I see and hear about DRR and the devastating impact of hurricanes and other disasters, the more I believe that we can no longer be a people of reaction. We have to think ahead–imagine the unimaginable. Not for the sake of freaking ourselves out and burdening ourselves with worry but for the sake of being prepared and preventing unnecessary loss.
“Every time something very dramatic happens we hear people say, ‘Oh we could not have imagined that this would happen.’ So I would say really the first thing that we have to do is to start imagining what can happen. To actually acknowledge that this may happen to me as well.” 1
– Margareta Wahlstrom
Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction
DRR is one of World Concern’s largest focuses here in Haiti. Community meetings, trainings, building canals. Yes, it’s nowhere near as glamorous as digging wells or giving goats to young children so they can go to school (both of which are very important to development), but sometimes we need to take off our “I-only-see-glamorous-development glasses” and ask ourselves what is important.
So what does DRR actually look like? Take a look at some ways World Concern is working to decrease the risks and improve preparedness vulnerable communities in Northwest Haiti.
Knowledge is power safety Community Mobilizers are trained in topics related to DRR as well as water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). They then go into the communities to hold trainings in order to raise awareness and increase preparedness among the vulnerable population.
Canals to prevent flooding This canal in the community of Jerilon, which is located in the city of Port-de-Paix, is one of several being constructed in Northwest Haiti to prevent flooding in surrounding homes. They are carefully built at the right capacity and strength to handle heavy rains during rainy season and hurricanes.
A shelter during natural disaster Roofing materials are loaded into a truck headed for Northwest Haiti. There, schools and church buildings are renovated to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes to ensure the whole community has a safe shelter to go to during the next natural disaster.
Preparedness in schools We are working with schools in five different communities in the city of Port-de-Paix to create emergency plans that they can use in the case of disaster. Administrators and teachers are also given training in disaster management.
Agricultural security In 2012, drought caused $20 billion dollars of economic loss in the Americas. Yes, billion. Drought resistant seeds which require less water can help farmers like Xavier Alix feed his family despite changing weather patterns.
So Happy International Day for Disaster Reduction! Thanks for taking the time to be informed and consider imagining the unimaginable.
Want to dig deeper?
* I would recommend this 5-minute video based on the 2013 Global Assessment Report for Disaster Risk Reduction. It touches on some of the different issues in DRR across the world today.
* This is not just an issue affecting Haiti. It must be considered in the US too. This Guardian article talks of urban areas like New York, Boston, and Miami and the dangerous combination of their high risk of flooding and low preparedness. “Inaction, could lead to losses in excess of $1 trillion a year [across the world].”