Disaster Preparedness Project
Major disasters such as the Indian Ocean tsunami and the South Asia earthquake underscored for the international community the importance of strengthening disaster preparedness for effective response and recovery.
The World Conference on Disaster Reduction (WCDR) in January 2005 adopted the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) with five priorities for action to promote a strategic and systematic approach to reducing vulnerabilities and risk of hazards between 2005 and 2015. OCHA is participating in these efforts to strengthen response preparedness as one of the five priorities in the HFA. At the WCDR, the International Recovery Platform (IRP) was launched as a networking mechanism for post-disaster recovery and bridging relief.
- Identify disaster-prone countries requiring assistance in response preparedness
- Promote the development of contingency plans and standard procedures to assist UNCTs in disaster-prone countries and regions to enhance response preparedness
- Host contingency planning and response preparedness missions, and country and regional workshops
During 2005, OCHA developed its Natural Disaster Action Plan to map out its response preparedness activities. That included activities such as contingency planning, capacity building, and supporting national disaster preparedness strategies, early warning and transitioning to recovery. OCHA’s Regional Offices and Regional Disaster Response Advisors (RDRAs), with the support of CRD, implemented several projects to promote disaster preparedness activities.Most of these activities were carried out in the two particularly disaster-prone regions: Asia and the Pacific, and the Americas and the Caribbean.
In Asia and the Pacific, contingency planning workshops were held in Nepal and Bangladesh, which strengthened UNCTs’ response capacities and identified areas of UN support to the governments, such as the formulation of contingency planning for both natural disasters and complex emergencies, and strengthening of UN Disaster Management Teams (UNDMTs). A mission was also fielded to the Pacific to develop a regional strategy for disaster response and preparedness.
In the Americas and the Caribbean, OCHA supported the organisation of the 10th Meeting of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), Special Committee on Natural Disasters. That resulted in the formulation of lines of action to enhance preparedness and response measures for the 2005 hurricane season for countries in the Caribbean basin. The event also contributed to ongoing efforts to raise the level of awareness of emergency managers and other government authorities about the need to improve their country’s level of preparedness to confront the hurricane season. OCHA also participated in the Regional Review Forum in Jamaica to strengthen disaster management capacities of the RCs’ offices in the Caribbean.
Contingency planning workshops were held with UNCTs in Chile, Guyana, Mexico and Venezuela, which provided basic knowledge of disaster preparedness and response.
An UNDAC mission was pre-deployed to Nicaragua in October to support national authorities and UN Agencies there in preparing for the potential effects of the rapidly approaching Hurricane Beta. The mission arrived 48 hours before the hurricane made landfall, pre-positioning the team well before the possible closure of airports so that response coordination activities could be activated at once.
OCHA also fielded UNDAC preparedness missions to assess the national response capacity of the Philippines, Mongolia, the Dominican Republic and Georgia, at the request of those governments. A mission was sent to Papua New Guinea to support the government and RC in responding to the volcanic eruption on Manam Island. The mission identified gaps and challenges in shelter, health, education and other sectors.
In addition to the original work plan, two new projects were developed to link enhanced response systems with risk reduction and recovery activities. One was a pilot project providing NDRAs to strengthen UNCTs’ disaster response and response preparedness capacities in selected disaster-prone countries. NDRAs, once in place in 2006, will support the work of RDRAs in between workshops and missions, respond to major and minor disasters, and liaise with government authorities.
The second new project was the development of guidelines to ensure OCHA’s smooth transfer of responsibilities into the recovery phase by incorporating recovery tasks in the early stages of the relief phase. The guidelines will be fashioned into a checklist, after consulting with partner organisations, and tested in a few disaster situations.
Priority countries were identified in the Americas, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific regions so that the work of RDRAs can focus on identifying gaps and providing targeted assistance in response preparedness capacity.
Contingency planning workshops were held in Bangladesh, Nepal, Chile, Guyana, Mexico and Venezuela, enhancing the response preparedness capacity of UNCTs and partner organisations through interactive planning.
UNDAC response preparedness missions were sent to Mongolia, the Philippines, the Dominican Republic and Georgia, resulting in targeted support and recommendations, pinpointing gaps in each disaster management office by RDRAs.
Disaster response and preparedness training missions fielded to the Maldives, Thailand and Samoa enhanced the response preparedness capacity of UNDMTs through workshops and contingency planning sessions.
Networks and cooperation platforms assisted included ASEAN disaster response working groups, the Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network, and the Asia Partnership Meeting to discuss Strategic National Action Plans (SNAP) for HFA.
In the Americas and the Caribbean, collaboration was strengthened with the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Response Agency (CDERA), and the Coordination Centre for Natural Disaster Prevention for Central America (CEPREDENAC).
The regional inter-agency coordination platform was established in 2003 with the participation of regional UN Agencies’ offices (UNICEF, UNDP, WHO/PAHO, WFP, ISDR, OCHA) and the IFRC. Through enhanced exchange of information, the platform served in 2005 as a forum for joint planning of meetings and workshops, as well as preparedness and contingency planning missions.