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 UNDP, Lebanon prepare for natural disasters

BEIRUT: In 2015, the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters recorded 22,773 deaths as a result of natural disasters worldwide. To shed light on the urgency of the situation, Oct. 13 is International Day for Disaster Reduction. And some in Lebanon want to do their part. In 2009, the United Nations Development Program launched the “Strengthening Disaster Risk Management Capacities in Lebanon” project to ensure that citizens would be prepared for future calamities. Since then, “a tangible change has been shown on a national level as well as inside public institutions,” UNDP Lebanon Director Luca Renda told The Daily Star. One of the successes was the launch of a Disaster Risk Management Unit, or DRM Unit, at the Grand Serail in Beirut. The unit focuses on four main areas to raise awareness about natural disasters – prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. “You cannot completely prevent the loss of life,” Renda said, but added that if awareness can be raised then it is “possible to realize how many lives lost we can avoid.” The UNDP initiative has been supported by successive prime ministers. And as many as 300 municipalities have partnered with the UNDP and the DRM Unit over the last seven years. Four million dollars worth of equipment, training and support has been given to the program since 2009, according to Renda. Along with governmental support, Renda said that the major international donors were Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands and other European nations. Although much progress has been made, more work needs to be done. According to Renda, a change in mentality must be made in each household and within each person. “It takes time to build this mentality. ... The responsibility starts in your own house, where you must map the risks of your own property,” he said. Tabletop exercises – meetings to discuss simulated emergencies – have been performed throughout Lebanon to test the nation’s preparedness and response capabilities. According to Renda, a group of 300 people participated in a drill using the recently established crisis room at the Grand Serail, and the northern coastal town of Byblos also performed tabletop simulations. “Along with these, we have partnered with [logistics company] DHL at the Beirut Airport for them to be prepared to help in case of a natural disaster,” Renda said. The crisis room at the Grand Serail will serve as the central emergency room during a natural disaster. “The room has ... technologies that many other countries do not even have, in addition to our mobile crisis response room,” UNDP DRM Communications Officer Suzanne Houssari told The Daily Star. The central crisis room is connected to crisis operation rooms across Lebanon at the municipality level. Houssari said Lebanon experiences over 600 earthquakes per year, according to the National Council for Scientific Research. “We are working on managing the before, during and after of any natural disaster – not only responding once something happens,” she added. The head of international cooperation at the Swiss Embassy, Philipp Beutler, echoed Houssari’s comments. “We need to get away from the response-only attitude and focus on [teaching] more prevention and preparedness methods,” he said. Although solid infrastructure is key, awareness is just as important. He went on to say that everyone needs to know his or her role when a natural disaster occurs, while also calling on politicians to have an active role and invest in the prevention process. “When a politician is in power for, let’s say four years, it is tough for this person to convince people that there is a need to invest in something that has not yet happened,” Beutler said. He added that over the last 10 years, the Swiss government has donated more than $5 million for risk management and preparedness. “We consider this as an investment rather than a cost,” he said. “When a child is at school and a fire breaks out, he or she must know an escape route,” Beutler said. He added that in a natural disaster, your neighbor is your most important responder. “Neighbors know each other’s houses and where emergencies might take place. ... [Neighborhoods] must work together to coordinate in case of an emergency.” The theme of this year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction is “Live to tell.” The day is held in support of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. Lebanon has committed to the Sendai Framework, passed by the U.N. General Assembly in 2015, which is a “15-year, voluntary, nonbinding agreement, which recognizes that the state has the primary role to reduce disaster risk, but that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders,” according to the website of the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. This year’s celebration will “seek to create a wave of awareness about actions taken to reduce mortality around the world,” the U.N. said. Renda called on the government to renew its commitment to the framework. “Let’s renew our commitment to Sendai, because a natural phenomenon does not have to become a disaster if we are well-prepared,” he said.
UNDP, Lebanon prepare for natural disasters
Last Update Date:Date de mise à jour:آخر تحديث في تاريخ:10/13/2016 1:02 PM
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