New Zealand today underlined the need for effective disaster preparedness and promised to share with the United Nations and other concerned organizations the lessons the country had learned from responding to the deadly earthquake that struck its second-largest city, Christchurch, in February.
“For regions as vulnerable as ours, disaster preparedness is no desktop exercise – it’s a matter of survival,” Jim McLay, New Zealand’s Permanent Representative to the UN, told the general debate of the General Assembly in New York.
The country’s Pacific neighbours are also threatened by the consequences of rising sea levels as a result of climate change, amid fears that whole populations could be on the move, with implications for international stability and security.
“Faced with that, it is self evident that all relevant international fora – including the Security Council – must play their part in addressing this challenge. That means effective action on emissions reduction,” Mr. McLay said.
“It means strengthening adaptation in developing countries, particularly the most vulnerable. And it means acknowledging and planning for security implications, before they become threats to regional and international security.”
Philippines authorities are warning of possible water-borne disease outbreaks following Typhoon Nesat, which forced thousands from their homes and resulted in at least 18 deaths.
More than 171,000 people across 22 provinces were directly affected by Nesat on 27 September, the 16th cyclone to have hit the archipelago nation this year and considered one of the strongest, with a 650km radius rain band.
According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) on 28 September, many areas of Luzon Island, the country's most populated area, remained without power and cut off from emergency services by landslides, floods and debris that littered many highways.
More than 47,000 families remained in 153 evacuation camps, mostly sports stadiums and schools whose sanitation facilities are not equipped to handle a large influx of people.
NDRRMC executive director Benito Ramos told IRIN that cramped centres in the Manila Bay slum neighbourhoods, evacuated after storm surges, could be among the areas severely affected by disease.
"In coordination with the Health Department, we have deployed emergency management service personnel to supervise sanitation and other issues, including drinking water and distribution of medicines," Ramos said.
He said small children were especially vulnerable to common colds or diarrhoea, while Leptospirosis - a bacterial infection that causes high fever and jaundice and is commonly spread by rats through urine - was a cause for concern because many areas remained submerged.
"We are trying our best to help everyone and ensure that diseases are checked," he said.
Four Pacific nations participated in the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, in addition to Australia and New Zealand: State Party Fiji, signatory Palau, and two non-signatories: Kiribati and the Solomon Islands.
Kiribati’s attendance at the Second Meeting of States Parties represented its first-ever participation in a meeting related to the Convention. In a statement to the meeting, Kiribati said that it was considering accession to the Convention and expressed solidarity with the sorrow and suffering of affected states. Its representative stated that, “Kiribati has never used, produced, transferred, or stockpiled cluster munitions.” Kiribati is affected by unexploded ordnance, particularly Betio and South Tarawa.
In its Communique issued in Auckland on 8 September 2011, the 42nd Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Leaders Meeting for the first time acknowledged the need for action to counter the threat that unexploded ordnance dating from World War II poses throughout the region:
Scientists at NIWA are investigating the longer-term costs of natural disasters using the September 2009 Samoan tsunami as a case study. The anticipated costs of natural disasters drive decisions about investment in risk-reduction initiatives, so the more accurately the costs can be estimated, the better those decisions will be.
NIWA's Dr Shona Van Zijll de Jong is looking at the costs that occur for between two and five years after a disaster, especially the costs associated with the recovery of individuals and communities. The direct costs of a disaster can be relatively easy to measure, but indirect and intangible costs are much harder to quantify.
“We know very little about the longer-term costs associated with the psychological, physical, financial, and emotional damage people suffer as a result of a disaster,” says Shona.
Directly after the tsunami in Samoa in October 2009, Shona led a team of socio-economic researchers with the aim of developing loss indicators which could then be used to measure these hard-to-quantify costs.
“The benefit of developing and using indicators soon after a disaster is that we now have a set of benchmarks against which we can better understand the types of losses people incur, and who incurs the greatest costs,” says Shona.
A number of developing countries are taking steps to build their own national satellite programs, seeking to ensure access to remote-sensing data to map and forecast disasters, monitor crop yields and track environmentally driven diseases such as malaria. “These countries are not just getting a new technology toy,” Wood says. “They’re also creating a new, first generation of experts that can help inform the country’s use of space technology to address local challenges.”
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VALID editorial group, chaired by Professor Orhan Altan of Istanbul Technical University, met in Munich on 18 August for its 3rd planning meeting this year. VALID (The Value of Geo-Information for Disaster and Risk Management) is planned as another joint publication of the JBGIS (Joint Board of Geospatial Information Societies) and UNOOSA.The top 12 products and services are related to flood, drought, earthquake, tsunami and fire management. They will be described in more technical detail, and published on the UN-SPIDER portal for a comprehensive evaluation by the global user community, with emphasis on assessing their impact on operational, administrative and political issues, and the criticality of specific product features.
The intention is to produce a publication to give evidence of the economic, humanitarian and organizational benefits which can be realized by applying geoinformation to disaster management, based on analyses of representative cases, and on an expert stakeholder assessment.
The National Disaster Reduction Center of China (NDRCC), as a partner of UN-SPIDER, provided mapping products to support drought monitoring in the Horn of Africa. A total of 11 products were prepared using satellite images to monitor crops, water body dynamics, and drought in the Horn of Africa, including Kenya, Djibouti, northern Sudan and Somalia. UN-SPIDER closely worked with the end users to disseminate the products to the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). These products were also uploaded to the UN-SPIDER Knowledge Portal for open access. The HJ-1 A/B data was made available for sharing upon specific requests. The cooperation between UN-SPIDER and NDRCC in the Horn of Africa crisis represents an excellent start for further cooperation and the establishment of a long term partnership to support emergencies in the countries working with the UN-SPIDER Programme.
New Zealand is to help smaller Pacific countries improve their tsunami precautions, Prime Minister John Key announced Tuesday
"Our region is particularly prone to cyclones, floods, tsunami and other catastrophic disasters, many of which can wipe out hard- won development gains in minutes," said Key, who is chairing the annual Pacific Islands Forum in Auckland this week.
The government would invest 2.7 million NZ dollars (2.24 million U.S. dollars) over the coming year to upgrade tsunami risk management systems in the Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Niue and Tokelau, said Key.
New Zealand's Ministry of Civil Defense and Emergency Management will work with those nations' authorities to improve tsunami assessment and warning processes; roll out siren warning systems; raise public awareness, including tsunami-awareness workshops, drills and educational resources for schools; and identify tsunami evacuation routes.
"Pacific island governments, economies and livelihoods can be overwhelmed by natural disasters, and planning to reduce the impact of these events will help save lives and assist in recovery efforts," said Key.
Foreign Minister Murray McCully has announced New Zealand will donate NZ$3 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in response to an urgent international request for increased humanitarian assistance in Africa.
"The United Nations has named the situation in Africa as the worst humanitarian disaster in the world. The crisis is predicted to continue well into 2012," Mr McCully said.
"New Zealand's direct support for the ongoing humanitarian crisis now totals close to NZ$6 million, with NZ$2 million committed to World Food Programme and almost NZ$1 million to New Zealand non-government organisations earlier this year.""Our contribution to the ICRC will be targeted to Somalia where humanitarian needs are most pressing. The ICRC is already working closely with the Somali Red Crescent," the Minister said."The ICRC and Somali Red Crescent are two of the few agencies able to operate in southern and central Somalia due to intense civilian conflict.""Rates of severe malnutrition among infants in Somalia are the highest in the world," Mr McCully said."This additional NZ$3 million will help address malnutrition and health concerns of children and their mothers, provide food to one million people and safe drinking water.""New Zealander's generosity in response to the humanitarian crisis should also be applauded, with over NZ$3.5 million already donated through public appeals," Mr McCully said.
For months, the Kenyan government resisted opening an extension of the world’s largest refugee complex in Dadaab to accommodate Somalis displaced by drought and conflict, finally relenting in late August.
The town, about 80km from Somalia in Kenya’s arid Garissa region, has been drawing in refugees for more than two decades, throwing up complex problems that fuel Kenya’s frustration at having handled more than its share of the “Somalia problem”, says Badu Katelo, Kenya’s acting commissioner for refugees.
Somali refugees outnumber locals in Dadaab by a quarter of a million at least and counting, said J Ndamburi, the district commissioner. The three camps – Hagadera, Dagahaley and Ifo – designed for 90,000 people, now host approximately 440,000 refugees, 150,000 (all Somalis) of whom have arrived in the past three months, says the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.
The government, aid agencies and local community say the situation as it stands is unsustainable and needs to be re-examined.
Katelo said the international community and richer countries such as South Africa should step forward to shoulder their responsibility towards the Somali refugees. “Just because Somalia is our neighbour, it is not our problem alone – the UN [Security Council] should adopt a resolution making it mandatory for everyone to play their role in addressing the situation and resolving conflict in Somalia.”