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Reducing disaster?

Despite several decades that have emphasised disaster risk reduction approaches to reduce the impacts of disasters, humanitarians are still frequently called upon to assist communities and governments to respond to incidents. Since 2005, with the advent of the Hyogo framework for action and the current Sendai framework, evaluation of investment in disaster risk reduction and disaster impact data reveals some worrying trends.

While there is relatively little funding available for disaster risk reduction, this is probably not the main reason why efforts to reduce disaster risk cannot keep pace with increases in disaster risk and losses. A more likely reason is that the relationship between society and the environment has become increasingly complex. Change is happening at an unprecedented rate, and the interdependencies of our interconnected world means that we struggle to anticipate the threats, cascading impacts, and actions that might minimise losses and speed recovery.

Through this course, we will explore how disaster and humanitarian agencies respond to the needs of those affected by natural hazards and conflict. Unfortunately, high-level policy, guidance, and to some extent academic literature and practice, tend to silo natural disasters and complex emergencies involving conflict.

Over the last decade, global cooperation and international development initiatives have decreased as global powers look increasingly inward. Fragile peace and stabilisation initiatives falter, creating space for increased social unrest, corruption, militia activity, gang violence and, ultimately, conflict.

Climate impacts, combined with a growing global population, mean many live in unsafe conditions, exposed to alternating drought, food insecurity, storms, floods, coastal surges, and sea-level rise. Many of these people are also exposed to political and economic insecurities and are potentially being displaced by conflict. In 2017 alone, 2.6 million people in Afghanistan, and 1.2 million people in Myanmar were displaced by conflict. The table below shows the number of reported natural and technological hazard-related disasters to affect Afghanistan and Myanmar over a 20-year period (Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters n.d.).

Disaster type Afghanistan
2000-2020
Myanmar
2000-2020
Epidemic 16 2
Drought 5  
Earthquake 16 5
Extreme temperature 5  
Flood 72 23
Trasnport, industrial, or other accident 42 25
Landslide 19 10
Storm   8

Those living in low and middle-income countries, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region and Africa, face a continuing spiral of loss, response and only partial recovery, in the face of multiple and increasingly frequent threats which cross this divide.

We are a long way from reaching those targets set out in the Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction. Preparing for, and delivering a timely and appropriate response to the most vulnerable across the world, demands skilled professionals who can work across the traditional silos of the disaster management and humanitarian sectors.

Your task

Familiarise yourself with the current state of conflict response by doing the following:

  • Read the section titled ‘State of play’ on pages vi-vii of the executive summary of the 2019 Global Assessment Report by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

  • Explore the data provided by the ACLED database


References

Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (n.d.) EM-DAT Database [online] available from https://www.emdat.be/database [8 April 2020]

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This article is from the free online course:

Humanitarian Action, Response and Relief

Coventry University