Saturday, July 4, 2009

Disaster Management, Italian Earthquake,BBC World Debate with Nick Gowing.

I listened to the world debate as Nick Gowing probed into the minds to find answers to so many important questions regarding our world preparedness to handle disasters and mitigate their risks to people in various regions and of different types.The experts gave various answers and emphasised on the involvement of the communities and the vulnerable populations of the world in the context of disaster preparedness. As a response to the Italian Aquila earthquake showed that no matter how much the civil government does in terms of preparedness the actual mitigation measures are very diluted in terms of survival unless the local communities are not educated and are prepared for the disaster.As David Alexander writes in his blog ( ) the building stucture was defective and the disaster struck quickly and the community was not able to handle quickly and efficiently. The disaster management teams were trained and their civil defence structure is good. The issues here were more of buildings structure. If the community was aware and evacuation drills were held there may have been less human suffering. By the way David Alexander is an excellent source of scholarly information on the blogoscape!
The audience from Bangladesh gave an input in the programme about the preparedness in Bangladesh about cyclone disasters.Their approach at community level training and preparedness is absolutely crucial for relief and survival. This model ought to be incorporated in the preparedness priority response. This increases both survival and decreases morbidity and mortality rates when a disaster strikes both in the known or vulnerable areas such a s southern Italy(earthquakes) or Bangladesh, for( cyclones).

In Pakistan as a response to the massive earthquake in northern areas a National Disaster Management Authority was formed. ( that there was no coordinating or overseeing authority or institution for disasters as such. There are a lot of nicely written plans and policy initiatives in their book (National Disaster Management Risk Assesment and Roadmap, which is also available for download as are so many informative documents) but the actual fact is that there is no new information available on the progress in achieving these goals and objectives. As a recent information on their website indicates that NDMA will give annual input of their work done to the prime minister. Fine, but we need to know that what is bieng done on the level of objectives as laid down in this crucial although absolutely flavored like a beauracratic document. It seems that the document is written for display and the further actions are not to be displayed for public perusal. The questions which interest me most are ;
As written in their document,What are they doing at a)Community and the Local Level programming like
-Strengthening community and local level risk reduction capacities?
-Training,awareness materials for communities and stake holders.
-Community risk assesment and planning.
-Implementation of small scale(?what do they mean by small scale , size of populae tion, size of resources? size of area affected or covered?) mitigation schemes.
-School preparedness in high risk regions.

As seen on their website a tsunami preparedness excercise is done in Gwadar. Good! But this does not address and inform about why and how they handled the Baluchistan floods ! They should have information portal for public perusal with a professinal handling the information. Maybe he /she should write an updated blog in order to make this more useful and get real feedback. Community representatives, NGOs ,other persons could access and interact.
The other very important goal of School preparedness has to be made clear and complete. As seen in the earthquake in Pakistan, lots of schools perished with children and teachers inside. The recent conflict in the Frontier also damages school buildings and affects the future of our children. Traditionally if disaster strikes school buildings like in area floods in Punjab and Sindh have been used as relief abodes for displaced. Recently in the displacement relief in Malakand areas schools are bieng used as temporary relief. The buildings are not available to children to study. A priority should be to address this problem of school buildings as used in disaster relief .
On the whole the NDMA is doing a good job and should be encouraged to develop more ties with the local communities in vulnerable populations and also politically with the common man in order to function better and effectively increase it's outreach.

The world debate showed that no matter how prepared a country like Japan, Italy maybe ,disaster preparedness is never enough at this stage of the development now!

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