Making Disaster Risk Reduction a reality

Nepal, April 29, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Mercy Corps  </span>
    Mercy Corps representatives attending Disaster Risk Reduction workshop in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: Mercy Corps

Prior to attending Mercy Corps’ five day workshop on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in Nepal, I had never heard of the Hyogo Framework for Action, a legal framework that demonstrates a commitment made by 168 countries to support DRR. Along with 11 Mercy Corps staff from nine countries around the world — including China, Haiti, Tajikistan, Georgia, Myanmar, Niger, Indonesia, East Timor and host country Nepal — we gathered in Kathmandu to learn from one another regarding the current DRR programs that we implement, how to improve our capabilities and the international standards/commitments for DRR.

Why are and should Mercy Corps staff be interested in DRR? It’s simple. Mercy Corps works with communities in countries that are vulnerable to disasters, that have limited capacity to respond and are therefore at increased risk.

According to the Centre for Research of the Epidemiology on Disasters, the world is facing an unprecedented scale of disasters. Nearly 25 percent of the world’s landmass and nearly 75 percent of its population is at risk and as such we need to protect the most vulnerable. The investment must be made in preparing communities to respond to disaster before it happens, in order to increase communities’ resilience and reduce their vulnerability. In order to protect the development work which the international community and Mercy Corps is engaged in, we should prioritize and support DRR efforts.

The DRR workshop provided a forum for representatives from Mercy Corps country teams to talk about the disasters which affect their communities:

  • Nepal is vulnerable to landslides and earthquakes;
  • Communities in Indonesia suffered the devastating impact of the tsunami and continue to be susceptible to earthquakes and landslides;
  • Myanmar was hit by one of the worst cyclones in history;
  • Niger is affected by drought and subsequent food crisis;
  • Georgia and Tajikistan are suffering the affects of climate change, with increasing incidents of landslides and flooding; and
  • China and Haiti have both recently been hit by earthquakes

Although these disasters vary in magnitude, they have all caused widespread devastation to communities — destroying infrastructure including roads, schools and hospitals, as well as damaging livelihoods and causing loss of life.

Mercy Corps is engaged in DRR by preparing communities, mitigating the risk, advocating and integrating DRR into our development programs. The opportunity for Mercy Corps country staff to engage in DRR and visit our DRR programming in Nepal will equip field and HQ staff with the knowledge and skills to integrate DRR activities into their own country programs and better support the communities we work for.