Thursday, August 21, 2014

How to adapt disaster management to an urban context

Lean Alfred Santos in Devex: When we think about cities, we consider  high-rise buildings, highway roads, public services including schools and hospitals, and — arguably — progress and development. But when a natural or man-made disaster strikes, do most urban communities, given their perceived “progress and development,” fare better than their rural counterparts, especially in rapidly urbanizing Asia-Pacific?

Given recent natural catastrophes in the region, the simple — albeit hasty — answer is no. Every community can prove to be equally vulnerable to the negative effects of natural calamities if stakeholders do not formulate and implement appropriate disaster management strategies, and this was precisely the theme of a workshop conducted this week in Manila by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

“There is a growing concern worldwide that rapid urbanization, changing patterns in vulnerability and the increased intensity and frequency in weather-related disasters, poses new challenges for risk reduction and effective response [including the region],” IFRC stated in the pre-event report obtained by Devex.

While emergency response and disaster risk management is not a new development discussion, especially in Asia-Pacific, many of the strategies and best practices currently available in the international development landscape pertain to frameworks focused on rural contexts — a gap that needs to be bridged to have a comprehensive disaster management strategy.

“Most disaster risk reduction [and management] programs were designed for rural communities or adopted from rural experiences,” Jerome Zayas, technical manager at international scientific group Earthquakes and Megacities Initiative, said during the panel discussion, adding that urban communities face different challenges than rural ones including informal settlers and livelihoods, among others.

Zayas added that while existing rural-focused strategies can be seen as slightly inappropriate when implemented in urban settings, these documents, however, can be a springboard — and foundation — for the formulation of a separate urban disaster management strategy especially on the lessons learned and recommendations....

2012 flooding in Manila, shot by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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