UMCOR’s Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) program helps communities in the Philippines identify their vulnerabilities and attend to these before the next disaster strikes.
By David Tereshchuk*
July 9, 2012—It is an obvious point, but it can sometimes get overlooked in our vital rush to aid communities in the wake of terrible disasters.
That obvious point is: work to avoid the devastation of future disasters is vital, too.
Like any organization dedicated to helping people build better lives, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) places a premium on preparing people for disaster and lowering the risks of disasters before they happen, as well as continuing to provide fast and sustained recovery work once any disaster has taken place.
A large part of Rebecca Dobbins’ job, as UMCOR’s Manager of International Disaster Response, has been to conduct Disaster Risk Reduction (DDR) training for UMCOR offices in disaster-affected countries. Recently, she has completed training programs in Sri Lanka, Georgia and Armenia.
The training workshops address the daunting reality that many communities around the world live under— the constant threat of a future disaster. UMCOR’s Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) program helps such communities to identify their vulnerabilities and attend to these before the next disaster strikes.
One illustrative example often cited is from the Philippines, where building a new retaining wall or planting mangroves can be powerfully life-changing for coastal communities. Any future storm coming in from seaward would inevitably still take its course, but its consequences would not be so devastating, since the wall or mangrove plantation will effectively limit any tidal surge which otherwise could sweep away people’s homes and livelihoods.
In this basic, forward-looking effort, UMCOR is playing its part in a United Nations-based 10-year program, the Hyogo Framework for Action (named for the Japanese region where it was affirmed by 160 nations at a World Conference On Disaster Reduction in 2005). The framework of action is aimed at what it calls "the substantial reduction of disaster losses”.
Disaster Risk Reduction, to be effective, has to face enormous global problems like environmental degradation, climate change, inequalities in infrastructure, and political elites’ neglect of marginalized populations. UMCOR makes a major point of incorporating this all-embracing, cross-cutting theme into many of its existing programs.
As a result—immediate disaster response, continuing community health programs, sustainable agriculture projects, water and sanitation work, education and awareness-raising, and long-term reconstruction efforts— are all being influenced by the need to fully consider the risks of future devastation, and head them off.
Your gift to International Disaster Response, Advance #982450 will help prevent future devastation of communities by disasters.
*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media analyst and a regular contributor to umcor.org.