Pacific reminded to reduce disaster risk
This week has marked the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction which the UN says holds particular importance for the Pacific.
This week has marked the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction which the United Nations says holds particular importance for the Pacific.
The regional head of the UN's Disaster Risk Reduction office Timothy Wilcox says the Pacific needs to prioritise its disaster resilience.
Mr Wilcox told Koro Vaka'uta disaster resilience can act like disaster prevention.
TIMOTHY WILCOX: The idea is that if we are resilient to the disasters that we are being affected by then technically we can actually stop the disasters from happening because the community is strong enough to absorb the shocks and the impacts of the hazard itself thus meaning that technically a disaster may not even have to be declared. This is particularly important in the changes in the climate we are experiencing, the more intense cyclones, floodings, droughts etcetera. It's very important that we understand our environment and not only adapt to it but also find ways of being resilient to it or otherwise we will be stuck in the constant responding to a disaster, recovering, responding and recovering, but we can actually break that cycle.
KORO VAKA'UTA: This is particularly in the region that you oversee given the geographical challenges, the locations, the vulnerability that exists in the Pacific isn't it?
TW: For sure. Pacific islands are in the front line of climate change effects, not just with sea level rising but also with more intense cyclones. This year we actually saw two tropical cyclones occur in the region that were outside the cyclone season itself which is a bit of a concern and now we are seeing the El Nino effects with more droughts being estimated, particularly here in Fiji where I am based. Basically they are on the front line of all these things and they're usually the first ones to feel the impact of all these changes and so it's very important that the Pacific communities find ways of being resilient to all these changes and adapt to them. One of those ways is actually through traditional knowledge and the use of traditional knowledge. Pacific islanders have been here for over a thousand years, maybe more, and they've lived with cyclones for generations all that time and they have built up traditional knowledge on how to adapt and predict some of these things.
KV: Is enough being done across the region in terms of disaster risk reduction?
TW: We've shifted our mindset away from the constant response to trying to prevent and mitigate the damage and loss being done from it. Not only the development partners in the region such as New Zealand and Australia and UN agencies and NGOs and regional organisations but also the countries themselves have taken the bull by the horns so to speak in trying to address this. Fiji alone, for example, have actually decided to start doing assessments of their villages, hazard assessments and if necessary relocating them. They've already started doing that. Countries in the region understand that there is this inherent link between the huge amount of losses that they are encountering through a cyclone or a flood and the loss of sustainable development.
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