The world is experiencing unprecedented fragility and uncertainty from the developing climate crisis. Disasters are more frequent, intense and unpredictable. Experts are now saying that we have no option but to change how we reduce risk and manage crises.
In the ongoing Africa Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, experts are calling on humanitarian actors to urgently shift their approaches from disaster response to risk reduction.
According to experts who were speaking at the session – Scaling up disaster risk reduction in humanitarian action – responding to humanitarian emergencies without integrating preventive approaches is unsustainable.
Integrating risk reduction in humanitarian action on the other hand reduces future crises while reducing the cost of humanitarian responses.
Dr Paola Albrito the United Nations Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) Chief of Branch, Intergovernmental Processes, Interagency Cooperation, and Preparedness says the process of linking these two areas has already started, following the launch in May 2021 of a checklist that would support programming in this area.
Among other things, Dr Albrito says that adopting the use of this checklist would streamline the assignment of disaster risk reduction in humanitarian action. The checklist would also help with accountability, as there is general lethargy when it comes to the adoption of disaster risk reduction tools, which are often aimed at averting long-term hazards that can’t be seen immediately.
“There is a tendency to overvalue short term benefits over long term ones,” says Dr Albrito.
Since the checklist developed by UNDRR has not been adopted in many places, there is often confusion on which agency handles disaster risk reduction in contexts where populations have already been affected by conflict, civil strife, pandemics, and other hazards such as those caused by climate change.
“Humanitarian agencies say development agencies are responsible for disaster risk reduction,” she said, adding that development agencies on the other hand think humanitarian agencies are responsible for DRR.
The confusion on who handles DRR in humanitarian action is according to several other experts widespread across the African continent, as it has been experienced in countries such as Mauritania, Burkina Faso, South Sudan, and Madagascar.
“Humanitarian agencies didn’t agree that disaster risk was their job,” says Issa Sanogo the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Madagascar.
Mr Sanogo was also one of the speakers during the session.
In South Sudan, where one in three people are internally displaced and 2.3 million are refugees in neighbouring countries, the lack of programming that links humanitarian work with response to disaster risk reduction affects the long-term goal of achieving peace and stability.
“We have no framework to combine disaster risk reduction with humanitarian work,” says Dr Joshua Banak Joshou, South Sudan’s Director-General of the Department for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management.
Dr Banak also says the needs and priorities of governments must first be understood.
“For humanitarian action and DRR to go hand in hand, actors must understand the needs and priorities of both national governments and local communities,” says Dr Banak.
In addition to the virtual panels that are taking place on November 16, and 17, the Africa Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction will hold a high-level ministerial session where the responsible African ministers will be physically present in Nairobi, Kenya.
The Government of Kenya is the host of this Eighth Africa Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Seventh High-Level Meeting on Disaster Risk Reduction.
The events are organized by UNDRR in collaboration with the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).