The International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction was started in 1989. The UN General Assembly (UNGA) set this day aside to promote a global culture of risk-awareness and disaster reduction.
On this day, communities around the world discuss their progress in reducing exposure to natural disasters and raise awareness about the importance of eluding these risks.
Impacts of some natural disasters
The high death tolls in earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes, gives great importance to this cause. The destruction of infrastructure that provides basic services like education and health care, can greatly affect the economic growth and stability of any country.
In 2010, the Haiti earthquake of magnitude 7, took more than 220,000 lives and one and a half million of the population were displaced. This challenged many people to rethink the impacts of natural disasters and the horrendous damage it causes. Another terrible disaster was Hurricane Sandy. Though it was a predicted category 1 storm and its impacts were well understood before it hit the Eastern Seaboard, not much could be done to reduce the impact of its damage. It killed 48 people, left millions without power, and caused billions in damages. Hundreds of thousands of homes were destroyed and many were trapped in highrise buildings.
Climate change has caused sea levels to rise, which made the storm surge and increased the likelihood of stronger and wetter storms. How ready are we for the next hurricane?
In West Africa, the Ebola outbreak between 2014 and 2016, killed more than 11,000 people. The devastating wildfires in Australia killed at least 33 people and more than 11 million hectares (110,000 sq km) of bush, forest, and parks across Australia were destroyed. Currently, the world is battling with a global health disaster, the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to UNDP, the coronavirus pandemic is the greatest challenge the world has faced since World War Two. 214 Countries and Territories around the world have reported a total of 35,430,422 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Since the first known case of the virus was tracked in November 2019, the virus has killed 1,042,257 people worldwide, as of October 2020.
Under the influence of global climate change, human ingenuity, and activities, natural disasters have intensified in recent years. Therefore the need for disaster risk initiatives to reduce the effect of this global challenge. Technology will play a huge role in disaster risk reduction and management. Disruptive technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and Big Data, are helping in spreading critical information more quickly, improving the understanding of the causes of disasters, enhancing early warning systems, and assessing the damage of disasters.
In Mongolia, remote sensing is being used to monitor land degradation and restoration. As this area is heavily affected by desertification, it is important to guarantee ecological security and sustainable social development by using object-oriented databases to improve land restoration. The northwestern and northeastern parts of Mongolia have shown the most significant land restoration; namely, the areas having relatively sufficient water resources.
In response to COVID-19, a combination of digital technologies such as contact tracing apps, telemedicine, syndromic surveillance, and SMS and instant messages, are being utilised in managing the outbreak.
The way to go:
The theme for this year’s celebration is “substantially increasing the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies”. Start a conversation about disaster reduction and learn about your country’s progress in natural disaster risk management.
We can’t alleviate the effects of natural disasters or accurately predict their impact. Nonetheless, we can build resilient systems to reduce its impact on our infrastructure. Governments need to pay attention to studies that suggest the best way to manage natural disasters. On an individual level, you should assess your readiness for manageable natural disasters such as floods. Also educate yourself about safety tips in an event of earthquakes, hurricanes or bush fires. Don’t wait for a disaster. Start planning today.