Spotlight On Disaster Risk Reduction And Response In The Pacific

 OCHA

SPOTLIGHT ON DISASTER RISK REDUCTION AND RESPONSE IN THE PACIFIC

Suva, Fiji, 26 October 2015

 

Hundreds of disaster risk reduction and humanitarian response partners from across the Pacific, including ShelterBox, are gathering in Suva this week for a joint program of events around regional resilience to disasters and emergency management.

 

The week starts with the two-day Pacific Regional Disaster Resilience Meeting which brings together disaster management agencies and others to discuss the challenges of improving disaster management across the region with a view to saving lives and reducing disaster losses.

 

“The Pacific is a challenging environment for disaster risk management. It is very exposed to extreme weather events such as Cyclone Pam which hit Vanuatu hard earlier this year. Parts of the region are now suffering drought and water shortages because of El Niño while others are preparing for the strong likelihood that they will be hit by high winds, storm surges and heavy rainfall in the months ahead,” Timothy Wilcox, Head of the Pacific office of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) said.

 

“This week will be a first opportunity for the region to examine how to implement the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction which was adopted as a global blueprint for reducing disaster losses earlier this year. The Pacific region is well-placed to take a lead on showing the importance of being able to manage disaster risk as opposed to simply focusing on disaster response. A lot of good solutions will be shared this week.”

 

On Wednesday and Thursday, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) hosts the annual Pacific Humanitarian Partnership Meeting which aims to strengthen relationships between actors working in disaster response, resilience and recovery, as well as make preparations for the season ahead.

 

“Humanitarian needs are on the rise across the world. In the Pacific, countries are acutely vulnerable to a range of increasing natural hazards and the emerging impacts of climate change.  It has never been more important for those working across development, humanitarian response and risk reduction to be synchronized. That’s what this joint program of events is all about,” Sune Gudnitz, Head of the UNOCHA, Regional Office for the Pacific said.

 

“With El Niño posing a risk to 4.6 million people across 11 countries in the region, this meeting will be a critical opportunity to plan for what is shaping as an intense period ahead. The meeting is also a forum for humanitarian and development actors in the Pacific to commit to actioning some of the outcomes from the World Humanitarian Summit regional consultations earlier this year, particularly around placing affected communities at the heart of our work and bridging the humanitarian-development divide.”

 

In the lead up to the joint program of events, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) last week held a two-day workshop bringing together Pacific Red Cross leadership and national disaster management representatives to explore how to strengthen legal frameworks for disasters in the region.

 

“Pacific Island countries are disproportionately affected by natural disasters, while there are many initiatives in resilience and preparedness what is often overlooked is the area of legal preparedness.  Not only can strong laws help to save lives in a disaster, but they can also contribute to building stronger, safer, more resilient communities,” Aurelia Balpe, Head of Pacific Regional Office, IFRC said.

 

On Friday, the European Union and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) will host a meeting of the Regional Steering Committee for the EUR 20 million EU-ACP Building Safety and Resilience in the Pacific (BSRP) project. 

 

”I’m honoured to participate in this very important event with our partners to help Pacific Island countries build their resilience against disaster and climate change impacts. The EU has stood side-by-side with our Pacific friends and we are here to share and learn the lessons from disasters such as cyclone Pam and how we can do more and better,” the European Union Ambassador for the Pacific, His Excellency Andrew Jacobs said.

ShelterBox Monitors Central African Republic Conflict

Monastere de Boy-Rabe IDP camp has around 12,000 people living in cramped and squalid conditions, CAR, December 2013.  Photo courtesy of Laura Jepson.

Monastere de Boy-Rabe IDP camp has around 12,000 people living in cramped and squalid conditions, CAR, December 2013. Photo courtesy of Laura Jepson.

 

The Central African Republic (CAR) is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking amongst the bottom ten in development indicators with little or no improvement over the last twenty years. It is now facing a highly complex, prevalent humanitarian and security crisis that has forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. ShelterBox has been monitoring the situation but is holding off sending emergency shelter to these communities in need for now due to protection issues for the affected families as well as security concerns for ShelterBox Response Teams (SRTs). 
The renewed outbreak of violence between government and armed rebel forces that has swept the north-west of CAR over the past few months has affected the country’s entire population of 4.5 million, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Approximately 1.6 million, half of them children, are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.
Civilians have been caught in crossfire during recent clashes in various areas including the capital Bangui and continue to be subjected to violent attacks. Whilst nearly 64,000 Central Africans have sought refuge in neighbouring countries an estimated 533,000 are internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have been living in the bush for months on end with inadequate shelter, limited access to food and water and with serious health concerns.
Half of the 1.6 million population in dire need of humanitarian assistance in CAR are children, Haute-Kotto, CAR, December 2013. Photo courtesy of Laura Jepson.

Half of the 1.6 million population in dire need of humanitarian assistance in CAR are children, Haute-Kotto, CAR, December 2013. Photo courtesy of Laura Jepson.

 

ShelterBox has been monitoring the situation and has been in touch with contacts working in the country for the latest updates.
‘Due to CAR’s transient multifaceted environment and having spoken to other aid agencies in the country, we have decided to not yet send aid to the African country due to protection and security issues,’ said ShelterBox Operations Coordinator Dave Ray.
‘Hiding in the bush for safety’
‘Outside of Bangui people are displaced from their homes because they are hiding in the bush for their safety. If we gave them big new white tents they would become an easy target for armed groups. The size and weight of the tents would limit their ability to keep a low profile and move suddenly if there was an attack. There is also the likelihood that the tents would be taken from the displaced families and used by the rebel groups.
‘Within Bangui, although the majority of IDPs are sleeping outside without any shelter, the humanitarian community is conscious of not encouraging permanent camps. The priority is to focus on the restoration of security so that people can return to their homes as soon as possible.
 
‘Extreme risk destination’
‘We have also been in touch with Red24, a leading crisis management assistance company providing global risk management, which is calling CAR an extreme risk destination. It’s advising against all travel to the country and is evacuating its clients who are currently there. We therefore are not able to send our Response Team volunteers to carry out assessments. The situation is just too volatile right now.’
ShelterBox is continuing to investigate bringing aid into CAR but for now sending shelter would not be appropriate. Our heartfelt thoughts remain with everyone affected.

 

 

After Hurricane Sandy, ShelterBox Helps Families in USA, Cuba and Haiti

SRT member Todd Finklestone (US) delivering blankets to families in need in cold wintry New Jersey, USA, November, 2012.

SRT member Todd Finklestone (US) delivering blankets to families in need in cold wintry New Jersey, USA, November, 2012.

ShelterBox has Response Teams in Cuba and the United States responding to the damage Hurricane Sandy left behind as well as one en route to Haiti today. 

Around 18,000 homes have been flooded, damaged or destroyed in Haiti, according to the latest United Nations figures from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

James Webb (UK) is part of the ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) travelling to the Caribbean country to assess the need:

‘It’s been two and a half years since I first went to Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. Since then the country has continued to be struck by catastrophe and people are still living in horrendous conditions.

‘I’m part of the team going to see whether ShelterBox can help after Tropical Storm Sandy. There are lots of challenges facing us as reports suggest that it’s largely remote communities that have been most-affected.

Read more here: SANDY

Niger Experinces Worst Floods For 100 Years

Photograph taken from the ShelterBox deployment to Niger in 2010: A makeshift flood barrier provided protection and access to one family home during the floods in Niamey.

Photograph taken from the ShelterBox deployment to Niger in 2010: A makeshift flood barrier provided protection and access to one family home during the floods in Niamey.

 

A ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) is in Niger assessing the need for emergency shelter, following extreme flooding over the past month that has left thousands of families homeless. 

Reports say it is the worst flooding seen for nearly 100 years in the West African country.

At the beginning of August, rains moved north from Burkina Faso to Niger, falling over one day in the mountains in the north and running down into the southern region of Dosso.

A week later, up to 227 millimetres of rain fell overnight, which is half a year’s rainfall. The water ran through tributaries into the River Niger causing severe flooding in the regions of Tillabery in the north and the capital Niamey, flooding the city’s suburbs.

The United Nations (UN) reported that the Dosso region has been worst affected, with over 10,000 homes damaged by floodwaters.

Without shelter and food 

To date, the floods have destroyed 14,000 homes and 7,000 crop fields across the country, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), leaving many of the country’s poorest families without shelter and food.

With Niger already dealing with food insecurity across the Sahel region, the Malian refugee crisis, a cholera outbreak along the River Niger basin and a locust invasion, its capacity to respond to the flooding has been severely restricted.

Consequently, President Mahamadou Issou has called for international help after pledging 1,400 tonnes of food and over one million dollars of aid money for flood survivors.

Read more here: NIGER