Posted in Issue 98 January 2005 News from PAHO/WHO
When the World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction opened in Kobe, Japan, almost 10 years to the day on which a devastating 1995 earthquake killed more than 6,000 in that city, the painful memory of the south Asian tsunami that occurred just three weeks earlier was still fresh on everyone’s mind. The Conference brought together 4,000 participants from 150 countries to review concrete results and develop a strong plan of action for reducing disaster losses over the next ten years.
“We have to make sure that key urban functions in every community are able to withstand the shocks of natural disasters when they strike. When hospitals are destroyed, it is impossible to care for the wounded; when schools are damaged, our future generation is at risk,” said Sálvano Briceno, Director of the U.N. Secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, at the World Conference. Protecting and strengthening vital social services was among the main issues being discussed at the Conference, where participants called on governments to protect and strengthen critical public facilities and physical infrastructure.
The 168 delegations at the Conference adopted a framework for action calling on states to put disaster risk at the center of political agendas and national policies. The “Hyogo Framework for Action: 2005 – 2015” will strengthen the capacity of disaster-prone countries to address risk and invest heavily in disaster preparedness. “This new plan will help reduce the gap between what we know and what we do; the critical ingredient is political commitment,” said Jan Egeland, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs. The Conference also adopted a declaration recommending, among other things, that a “culture of disaster prevention and resilience must be fostered at all levels” and called on countries to recognize the relationship between disaster reduction, sustainable development and poverty reduction.
Visit the Conference web site at www.unisdr.org/wcdr to review official documents, presentations and plans. Read more on page 6 about the health sector initiative to make hospitals safe from disasters.