Underlying issues are underreported

Posted: June 16, 2011 in Climate change, Media, The press

Almost two disasters of significant proportions are recorded every week in Africa since 2000. (UNISDR)

The number of people exposed to floods in in Sub-Saharan grew from 500,000 per year in 1970 to almost 2 million per year in 2010. A new UN report, Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR 2011) reveals.

“Around 400 million people in the region live below the poverty line, and 200 million are considered to be under-nourished. Income poverty and food insecurity play a major role in land degradation, as the poor and hungry are forced to over-exploit natural resources to meet their immediate needs for survival,” UNISDR.

More so, the Media has always been the vanguard of providing information in the event and the aftermath of these disasters, be it droughts, floods, landslides etc. The challenge posed is: If the need to communicate is most pressing at a time of disaster, just how much more is it in preventing that disaster?

Disaster reduction as opposed to disaster response evades unnecessary and costly loss of both lives and property. For this reason, disaster risk management should be considered as an investment for any country, and the media can ascertain to this only if they change their manner of reporting disasters.

The Gar 11 further reveals that that disaster risk is an investment to any country drawing several examples.

New York

“New York has chosen an alternative: instead of spending US $6.8 billion in conventional pipe and tank improvements, it has decided to invest US$5.3 billion in green infrastructure – permeable pavements, more green areas, and other measures to address its problem of drainage capacity. Green infrastructure acts like a sponge – absorbing and regulating peak water flows.

Brazil to India

Countries from Brazil to India have shown that mechanisms designed to address structural poverty can be used to stop disaster prone households from sliding into poverty by providing a buffer. These programmes reach out to millions of households (12 million households in Brazil reached with only one programme – Bolsa Familia) and can be adapted at relatively low additional costs. The government has only last week announced that it wants to expand this programme (mid-June 2011).

Chile Earthquake

For example, after the 2010 Chile earthquake and tsunami, the Chilean Government extended payments from the country’s social assistance programmes, Chile Solidario and Programa Puente, to households affected by the February 2010 earthquake, whether they were structurally poor or not.”

“Greater public awareness can translate into greater government accountability” (HFA Mid-Term Review 2010-2011).  More coverage is thus needed to sensitize the public and influence policy underlying issues that affect the economy such as the direct correlation between disaster-related economic losses and the limited investment in risk management particularly at the local level.

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