From Mabasa Sasa in CANCUN, Mexico—
NATURAL and man-made disasters cost the global economy US$250 billion annually, and countries must move from mere talk to robust action to lessen this financial burden and the human toll that accompanies it, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Ms Amina Mohammed has said. She said this as she opened the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction here on Wednesday.
Among those present at the key meeting were President Mugabe, who was joined by other world leaders, scientists and NGO representatives.
President Mugabe was accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Local Government portfolio head Saviour Kasukuwere, and his Environment, Water and Climate counterpart Oppah Muchunguri-Kashiri.
Ms Mohammed said while governments — in partnership with NGOs and the private sector — had reduced the strain occasioned by disasters, more needed to be done urgently.
“In many countries the likelihood of mega disasters has greatly diminished thanks to stronger institutions, robust legislation and policy frameworks, better preparedness, improving early warning systems and a greater understanding of disaster risks, increased engagement with civil society and much more accountability.
“Human and economic losses from disasters cannot continue at current levels if we are truly to progress on the sustainable development goals.
“Annually, disasters are costing the global economy some US$520 billion and push more than 26 million people into poverty, economic losses from disasters can wipe out the entire GDP of a low income country overnight and force millions from their homes.”
She went on: “Haiti for example lost 120 percent of its GDP in the 2010 earthquake and 32 percent of its GDP as a result of Hurricane Mathew last October and that is why the Sendai Framework puts focus squarely on prevention.”
The Sendai Framework is a 2015 agreement reached in Japan to work towards seven targets that will mark significant reduction in the human and economic toll brought by disasters, with governments implementing in the 15 years through to 2030.
Zimbabwe, ahead of the Cancun meeting, had indicated that it was on track to achieve success in meeting a good proportion of the targets despite challenges faced in allocating resources to disaster risk reduction.
Yesterday, Ms Mohammed said, “Governments working with other actors such as mayors, community groups, women´s organisations, the private sector, Parliamentarians and youth groups have to give the same or greater priority to managing risks as they give to managing disasters once they occur.
“Essentially this means reducing the levels of exposure and vulnerability and trying to avoid the creation of new risks for people and communities.
“Risk drivers include poverty and inequality, climate change, weak risk governance, inappropriate land use and building codes, rapid unplanned urbanisation, the rise of informal settlements and population growth in hazard-prone areas.
“It is so vital that here in Cancun we move from commitment to action at country and regional level on implementing the Sendai Framework. The Sendai Framework monitor prototype is being presented this week ensuring that we are taking advantage of all the knowledge and technologies to further the impact of prevention.”
The seven Sendai targets cover substantially reducing disaster mortality, the number of people affected, economic losses, infrastructure damage and disruption of essential services; increasing the number of countries with national disaster risk reduction strategies; enhancing international support for developing countries; and increasing availability of access to early warning systems and information.
To this end, Zimbabwe — according to senior Government officials at the Cancun meeting — has since 2015 started operationalising and implementing the Sendai Framework.
The country, they said, is doing this by focusing on preventing new and reducing existing risk through “implementation of integrated and inclusive economic, structural, legal, social, health, cultural, educational, environmental, technological, political and institutional measures that prevent and reduce hazard exposure and vulnerability to disaster”.
“The Government of Zimbabwe has made significant strides in meeting the 2020 target where we are required to come up with comprehensive national and sub-national disaster risk strategies aligned to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.
“The whole essence of this target is to ensure that disaster risk reduction is incorporated and mainstreamed in the economic planning agenda of the country.
“Guided by the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation, whose implementation is aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the negative impact of disasters and risks are being addressed significantly in the various sectors of development such as agriculture and irrigation, health, education, energy and transport infrastructure, water and climate,” a senior Government official said in a brief.
Another official said the progress was being achieved notwithstanding El Niño-induced drought and flooding caused by Cyclone Dineo.
Other challenges, it was pointed out, were man-made, and these included “technological hazards in the form of road disasters, chemical spillage, dam failures, land degradation, pollution and veld fires”.