Background

Disasters, emergencies, and catastrophes can be classified as manmade and natural, which can occur anytime. Disaster is a term that is used to define incidents such as floods, hurricane, earthquake, wild fires and many more, hence each nation should work to ensure that incidents like these be prevented depending upon their geographical location. If a nation is reckless enough and does not take proper measures it may end jeopardizing every part of society along with nation sharing its boundaries with the affected state. We classify disaster relief into four phases: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.

Mitigation efforts are basically attempts to prevent the development of natural and manmade hazards from converting into disaster. This phase primarily focuses on long term measures in reducing the intensity of the disaster. The mitigation strategies are classified as pre mitigation and post mitigation phases which assist in scenarios before and after a disaster. Mitigation can be structural or non structural. Mitigation comprises of certain regulations such as evacuation, some mandatory regulations and preventing miscommunication in the public.

Preparedness is a term that describes the working procedure of the government and necessary skills required by the government to contain the situation. It comprises of steps like planning, training, equipping, monitoring, evaluating and other improving activities to maximise coordination during a disaster followed by enhancement of organizational capabilities to prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the natural or manmade disasters. Basic preparedness models include communication plans, trainings of Emergency Response Teams (EMT’s), Quick Response Teams (QRT’s), stockpiling food and rescue supplies, warning systems, emergency shelters followed by basic contingency plans.

Response is a word defined for quick action and deployment of rapid response teams along with first responders to the incident site. This can be fire-fighters, police, or ambulance crews. Special Search and Rescue Teams (SAR’s) or military units deployed in the areas additional support units. First Responders are crucial as they are the first response crews on the site that evaluate the condition of the situation followed by mass injuries and hazardous conditions, as they are the prime reasons for the disaster victims and first 72 hours are always a deciding factor between life and death. Disaster relief organizations also include international relief organizations such as the Red Cross or Red Crescent as well as UN organizations. These international organizations provide access to food, water, and shelter during post disaster. International organizations provide free supplies and logistics support donated by other nations and private firms, for post relief aid.

Finally the objective of the recovery phase is to normalise the situation after a disaster and bring people suffered, back to their routine. Recovery efforts focuses on rebuilding  constructions such as that of houses, hospitals, government buildings anything that is repairable in a short span of time and equip able to shelter the affected. However, efforts should be made to “build back better,” with a thought in mind “if this happens again”, better infrastructure and definitely yes, a better response. An important aspect of effective recovery efforts is taking advantage of a window of opportunity for the implementation of mitigation measures that might otherwise be unpopular because citizens of the affected area are more likely to accept more mitigation changes when a recent disaster is in fresh memory.

Some disasters that have horrified us include the tsunami and earthquake in Japan, the earthquake in China, the earthquake in Haiti, the earthquake and tsunami in Southeast Asia, and hurricane Katrina in the United States. Nations should be ready and better equipped to handle disasters like these as vulnerable nations bring nothing more than rising death counts.

Past International Actions

The United Nations has designated the responsibility in case of emergency to the Resident Coordinator of vulnerable nations. However international response will always prove to be faster and responsive, if the nation or the state request for UN support, through the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), which will then deploy UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team.

The United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team (UNDAC) was setup in 1993 as an immediate response organization to react in urgent situations. The UNDAC works swiftly and has been deployed in almost 100 nations in the past.

Earthquake in Chile and Haiti and flooding in Asia along with parts of Europe are just two examples that caused almost 42 million homeless and many more displaced. However, organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) works closely to ensure proper living conditions for those displaced but the conditions become a political issue after post recovery. This has created much conflict in the UN during deliberation over treaties and resolutions that have inhibited strong decisions from being made concerning refugees and displaced peoples.

Some Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) such as the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent have played vital roles in post recovery. Sometimes they play the role of first responders, coordinate, and respond to an emergency caused by a disaster.

Since 1980, the World Bank has approved more than 500 operations related to disaster management, amounting to more than US$40 billion. These include post-disaster reconstruction projects, as well as projects with components aimed at preventing and mitigating disaster impacts, in countries such as Argentina, Bangladesh, Colombia, Haiti, India, Mexico, Turkey and Vietnam among others. Common areas of focus for prevention and mitigation projects include forest fire prevention measures, such as early warning measures and education campaigns to discourage farmers from slash and burn agriculture that ignites forest fires; early-warning systems for hurricanes; flood prevention mechanisms, ranging from shore protection and terracing in rural areas to adaptation of production; and earthquake-prone construction. In 2006, the World Bank established the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery as a longer-term partnership with aid donors to reduce disaster losses.

Possible Solutions

One of the best way to prevent the worst case scenario even before it happens is the process of analysing past international disasters, as it will not only equip the government with more pre-emptive measures but also scales out what worked positively and what worsened. Geographic location will also play a large role in this issue since it determines the type of disaster that could potentially occur and alters the methods in which safety can be reached.

Solutions should primarily focus on ways to counter both manmade and natural disasters relief phases: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. International and regional coordination efforts, as well as partnerships with NGOs and donors, are also important in solving this issue.

Hence it is absolute necessary for nations to unite, when dealing with disasters. Without this, disaster can quickly turn to tragedy. Are the countries ready to unite? Are the states in a country ready to unite? Are the people ready to unite and deal with disasters? #JustAsking 


Anant MishraFeatured Photo Credit: USAID Indonesia via Compfight cc

Article Contributed By: Anant Mishra is former youth representative United Nations. He has served in number of committees including United Nations Conference for Trade and Development and United Nations General Assembly primarily focusing on international trade, middle east crisis, education, finance, economics. He can be reached on [email protected]gmail.com

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