Monday, 25 June 2018
Mitigation is the effort to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disaster. This is achieved through risk analysis and vulnerability assessment so that policies that put in place meet the intended objectives which results in information that provide a foundation for mitigation activities. It is a pre-disaster phase which is mainly focused on reducing the impact of a disaster culminating from a disaster. Generally speaking, mitigation is the first stage of the disaster management cycle which is followed by preparedness, response and recovery. While this is the generally accepted order of events, in reality these stages are all intertwined and not necessary exclusive.Akonor (2008) assets ‘that mitigation is the longest and perhaps never ending phase of the emergency management cycle. Mitigation measures are not homogenous they differ due to the type of a disaster. Anderson (1989) postulates that developed countries mostly experience technological disaster and mitigation measures are in line with the disaster. Mitigation measures can be structural or non structural.Stuctural measures deals or relies on hard engineering while non structural involves policies and utilisation of naturally available resources. For example building levees along river banks so as to reduce overflowing of water is an example of structural measure while putting policies such as legislation which prohibits people to carry out activities which may cause a disaster. Woodrow (1990) postulates that there are sets of tools that could be used to prevent disaster; these include hazard management and vulnerability reduction, economic diversification, political intervention and commitment and public awareness.
The term mitigation applies to a wide range of activities and protection measures that might be instigated from physical like constructing stronger buildings to the procedural like standard techniques for incorporating hazard assessment in land use planning. World Bank Report (2000) contends that the 1990s was a decade of major effort to encourage the implementation of disaster mitigation techniques in development projects around the world. These were initiated mostly in developing countries because they are more prone to disasters. Measures that can be taken are the construction of light buildings so as to lessen the disaster. In Japan there is construction of light buildings so as to reduce the impact of disasters such as earthquakes which are rampant in those areas. This is done to reduce the number of deaths due to trappings in hazard events such as earthquakes for example flooding along Missipi River in 2005 was reduced in mitigation measures by constructing levees to increase the drainage .This had lessened the impact of flooding
The United Nations has adopted the decade of 2000s as the international decade for natural Disaster Reduction. The aim was to achieve a significant reduction in the loss of life and material damage caused by disasters by the end of the decade .The most important critical part of implementing mitigation is the full understanding of the nature of the threat. In each country and in each region the types of hazards faced are different. Some countries are prone to floods others have histories of tropical storm damage and others are known to be in drought regions for example countries like Somalia, Ethiopia drought have not spurred them while counties like Japan and China floods are rampant in these region. For mitigation to be effective or to yield positive results there is need for risk assessment where one can be able to identify type of a disaster which may affect a particular area so that mitigation measures that may be used may be effective .For instance Muzarabani is to floods while areas such as Chivi and Mberengwa are prone to drought. There is need for mapping and taking foot walks so that one is able to see the exact disaster affecting a particular area. Vulnerability assessment is a crucial aspect of planning effective. Therefore vulnerability implies both susceptibility to physical and economic damage and lack of resources for rapid recovery. The understanding of how the occurrence of a natural hazard turns into a disaster enables us to forecast likely situations where disasters are possible. Mitigation that may be put in place to deal with this disaster is likely to address the problems of a certain area. In Chivi where there is a drought structural measure such the construction of dams to start irrigation may help to curb this disaster. Therefore risk assessment is very important aspect in mitigation strategy
An alternative approach is to develop mitigation policies in consultation with local community groups using techniques and actions which they organise themselves and manage little resources with limited outside technical assistance. Such community based mitigation programmes are considered more likely to result in actions which are a response to people’s real needs and contribute to the development of the community, its consciousness of the hazards it faces and its ability to protect itself in the future, even though technically the means may be less effective than larger scale mitigation programmes. This will tend also to maximise the use of local resources including labour, materials and organisation. However Akonor (2008) postulates that most governments and large development agencies adopt a top down approach to disaster mitigation planning whereby the intended beneficiaries are provided with solutions designed for them by planners rather than selected for themselves. This was further buttressed by Karikari (2009) who argues that such top down approach tend to emphasize physical mitigation measures rather than social changes to build up the resources of the vulnerable groups. They rarely achieve their goals because they act on symptoms not causes and fail to respond to the real needs and demands of the people. Ultimately they undermine the community’s ability to protect itself. Therefore community should participate so that they bring out their concerns and mitigation strategies that may be put in place respond to the real needs of the people.
In addition mitigation also entails the protection of the economy from disaster. There is need to some policies or to diversify the economy. Most African countries rely much of their economy on agriculture. Agriculture sector of the economy are most vulnerable to drought. Although measures that focus on protecting the most vulnerable elements and activities the weakest links in different sectors of the economy help to protect the achievements of economic development. There is no doubt that if countries diversify the economy it means that of one sector of the economy is affected for example in Zimbabwe which rely much on agriculture if it diversify its economy to sector such as manufacturing, mining therefore it means that if agriculture sector is affected due to the ever changing and unfavourable climate conditions it can be able to help its citizens with services and needs drawing some of the money from other sectors. This is why developed nations have got high levels of mitigating disasters due to diversification and also to technological innovations. Moyo (2009) assets that developing countries are more vulnerable to disasters than developed nations. Therefore economic diversification is an important tool in mitigation strategy
Mitigation also entails the formulation of policies that may help in dealing with natural disasters .Government should ensure that the citizens are aware of a certain hazard that may affect them .Public awareness is very important in mitigation. The community should be aware of the risk that that may hit their area. The government should provide telecommunications both electronic and manual. This helps the people to take effective measures before a hazard occur .For example the government of Haiti informed the people about the floods and people were able to evacuate the places in time .Mitigation involves not only saving the lives and injury and reducing property losses but also reducing the adverse consequences of natural hazards to economic activities and social institutions .Therefore a government that may not give its citizens information may be held responsible for the occurrence of disasters as Masunungure (2007) contends
In addition to non structural measures the government should put some policies in terms of legislation where there is strengthening of legislation that may prohibits anyone who may carry activities that may cause disaster .In Zimbabwe the government has put some stiff laws to those who may start fire willingly. Environmental Management Authority (EMA) has put in place jail terms to those who may bun the bush .The Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe has also been put in place so that they can help in curbing road accidents by imposing high fees for causing accidents in roads which takes away lives of many people
Disaster preparedness can best be described as measures put in place before a disaster event which are aimed at minimizing loss of lives, disruption of critical services and damage of property and infrastructure when disaster occur. Preparedness seeks to achieve a satisfactory level of readiness to respond to any emergency situation through programmes that strengthen technical and management capacity to governments, communities and individuals to build their capacities in order to reduce the impact of a disaster. According to Global Crisis (2000) ‘’It is logistical readiness to deal with disasters and can be enhanced by having response mechanisms, procedures ,rehearsals, developing long term and short term strategies, public education and building early warning systems “It is therefore clear that the sole purpose of disaster preparedness is mostly to build people’s resiliency to different hazards which may cause a disaster. In the disaster management discourse, disaster preparedness is a pre-disaster phase activity put in place before a disaster and goes hand in hand with mitigation although mitigation is surpassed by preparedness in most cases. To show the value of disaster preparedness, Virtual University (1998) argues that ‘’In local circumstances and because of proneness to disasters disaster mitigation is important but preparedness is doubly important “Thus disaster prepared if correctly implemented can built capacity, improve resiliency and reduce vulnerability to the vicissitudes of disaster.
Disaster preparedness measures are put in place to achieve certain objectives prior before the disaster which threatens a particular community. Disaster preparedness includes implementation of mitigation measures to ensure that existing infrastructure can withstand the forces of disaster or that people can respond in their communities and at the same time protect themselves. The absence or shortage of infrastructure and resource to mitigate disasters therefore means that the vulnerability is very high and capacity is low to respond to a disaster. Thus preparedness measures vary from one place to another depending on how policies are reinforced to influence response mechanisms as long term and short term strategies. For example the preparedness level of two countries such as Zimbabwe and United State of America are different due to the fact that their capabilities of resource inventories are different. This can be seen by the impact of disasters which struck these two countries in recent years. According to Anderson (2002) ‘’The impact of hurricane Cathrina in 2005 in America was less severe on the community and individuals due to the fact that America has a vibrant economy and strong preparedness mechanisms which can reduce the impact of a disaster although the long term effects were considered severe.’’ The difference can be seen by the same disaster which struck Mozambique in 2003 in tsunami which destroyed infrastructure and many people and more so, the disaster had severe implications on the Mozambican economy due to the fact that it attracted international assistance to help people cope up during the post disaster period.
Disaster preparedness seeks to achieve different objectives in the disaster management discourses. The aims of disaster preparedness is to achieve the universal goal of reducing the impact of a disaster so as to meet the interest of people to the lowest possible individual’s rights in a society. It is meant to reduce deaths to the lowest level in case of a disaster, to reduce the destruction of infrastructure which can threaten the livelihoods of people as well as resources which may also threaten sustainable development. It is therefore very vital for development practitioners to make sure they encompass those objectives in the disaster risk reduction strategies especially in the pre-disaster phase. The above mentioned points therefore validate the assertion that’’ there is nothing called natural disasters but disasters are man- made events.’’ To validate this view which can see that vulnerability is not homogenous and vary from one place to another and from one community to another depending on how strong and practical the disaster preparedness is. This can be seen in a natural floods hazard which threatens Sudanese people in 2013 leading to the displacement of 400 000 people, as postulated by France 24. Thus in actual fact there is questionability of the Sudanese disaster preparedness due to the severity of the disaster impact.
The disaster preparedness puts into effect the disaster preparedness plan into operational activities in order to provide a framework in which to encompass the guiding principles to operate under in case of a hazard event which is likely to threaten peoples livelihoods. The most crucial element in disaster preparedness is the emergency operations plan which at national level or community level to set out the scope of activities required for community preparedness and response. Thus to come up with a disaster preparedness plan which suits a particular community is to include hazard identification and vulnerability analysis in your planning. This is done to unearth underlying causes, dynamic pressures and vulnerability mapping which exposes people to hazards and disasters. With the 21st century disasters are very dynamic with hazards such as oil spillage and technological disasters being at the forefront. For example according to www.presstv.ir.com ‘’an oil spillage in Thailand of about 5000 litres in a dam was a disaster that was unplanned for thus exposing people to the risk of disaster of that kind.’’ Moreover, another dimension brought by Anderson (2005) “There is need for gender mainstreaming in disaster preparedness because involvement of women,children,community based organisations of marginalized groups and elderly broadens the range of ideas proposed for and incorporated into disaster planning and results that are more disaster resilient.”
Moreover, disaster preparedness also takes into account emergency exercise training that is meant to equip communities and individuals to acquire skills and technical knowhow on how to respond collectively in a disaster situation. Some people may be attitudinal vulnerable due to lack of training and expertise to educate them on how to survive in a disaster event.Mcaleb argues that “People continue to be vulnerable to disasters not because we are not doing anything but we are doing too much that is counterproductive” For example a fire hazard that may cause a disaster may be harmful if people lack emergency exercise training on how to use fire fighters and the erection of fire-fighters in public transportation systems can be taken as preparedness measure to reduce people’s susceptibility to disasters caused by fire hazard.
Furthermore, it is undeniable a fact that the presence of a more vibrant early warning systems to mitigate and reduce the impact of a disaster is a panacea. This refers to proper early warning system that is put into place to forewarn people about an imminent hazard and enable them to use mitigation measures to lessen the impact of a disaster. This can be seen in flood prawn areas such as Muzarabani where floods affects many people due to the absence of a viable early warning system that is meant to update people of different hazard events. Formation of early warning network can therefore strengthen the community’s capability to respond to hazard events and curtail them since it allows for collective action and responsibilities in effecting measures that goes a long way in disaster preparedness. The use of indigenous knowledge systems is another crucial element in fostering disaster preparedness activities. Communities have a vast knowledge on predicting and early warning, food production and storage techniques in averting disasters. For example according to UNEP (2000) “In Swaziland where drought and occasional floods are common disasters communities used the height of the Emahlokohloko bird (Ploceus) on trees to predict flooding” Thus indigenous knowledge system can be used as a sustainable tool in disaster preparedness.
Another important aspect in disaster management is the need for resource inventories in order for proper disaster preparedness. There is need for the mobilisation of resources such as people to carry out preparedness activities, equipment that is to be used in preparedness plans as well as systems that need to be put in place to curtail ever changing paradigm shifts in disasters such as technological disasters. Thus in drafting the evacuation plans that are to be used in emergency situations the entire community has to be educated and taught how to understand and interpret evacuation plans and more so those plans should be made easy to understand since not all people are educated. For in public transport systems such as buses and trains, there are some illustrations which are put in place to enable people to respond for their safety during times of disasters such as accident or fire outbreak.
The other important aspect in disaster preparedness is mutual aid agreements that are put in place to ensure minimal losses in times of disasters. This involves constructive efforts by all stakeholders to develop key ties in disaster risk reduction efforts. This involves co-operation at community, national and regional levels in a bid to collectively respond to any hazard event which may cause a disaster. Thus collective efforts ensures that every individual’s efforts are realised n order to come up with a preparedness plan which is a one size fits all. For example the signing of memorandum of understandings with other countries and engaging in bilateral agreements can spur help in times of hazard events. This can be seen in the flooding which affected Indonesia in 2013 resulting in the death of many people has attracted support from humanitarian organisations such as World Food Organisation as well as World Health Organisation who were key players in relief and recovery after a disaster event.
Disaster risk management is the systematic process of using administrative decisions, organization, operational skills and capacities to implement policies, strategies and coping strategies of the society and communities to lessen the impacts of natural hazards and related environmental and technological disasters. This comprises all forms of activities, including structural and non-structural measures to avoid (prevention) or to limit (mitigation and preparedness) adverse effects of hazards.The foundation of disaster risk management lies in the ability to assess imminent disasters in communities, this essay is therefore a discussion on disaster risk assessment ,what it is, how it is done, how it impacts on risk reduction, its merits and demerits to the overall management of disasters.
Risk refers to the probability of harmful impacts and consequences, or expected human
Injury, environmental damage, loss of life, property and livelihood, resulting from natural
hazards and vulnerable conditions (www.unesco.org/water - 2005). It can be calculated as the interaction between the probability of a hazard occurring and the vulnerability of a
community to the hazard, together with the capacity of the community to cope with and
recover from a disaster (UN/ISDR 2004a). Understanding the interaction of hazards, exposure and vulnerability is crucial to effective disaster prevention. Risk assessment therefore is fundamental to development practitioners, communities, nations, regional groupings and the International community at large who work on disaster risk reduction and recovery. A comprehensive risk assessment not only evaluates the magnitude and likelihood of potential losses but also provides full understanding of the causes and impacts of those losses The main objective of risk assessment is to provide objective and transparent information for making decisions on counter measures to reduce disaster.
The United Nations(U.N) through the International strategy for disaster reduction (ISDR) in its publication “Living with risk” came up with a framework on how to carry out a disaster risk assessment. Thus a comprehensive assessment should first and foremost seek to understand the current situation, needs and gaps inorder to assess what already exists, to avoid duplication of efforts and to build on the existing information. This is done through a systematic inventory and evaluation of existing risk assessment studies, available data and information and current institutional frameworks and capabilities. After that the risk assessor should carry out a hazard assessment inorder to identify the nature, location, intensity and likelihood of major hazards prevailing in a community or society.
Exposure assessment then follows , this is done to identify the population and assets at risk and delineate the disaster prone areas. This is followed by a vulnerability analysis thus the assessor seeks to establish the capacity(or lack of it)of elements at risk to withstand the given hazard scenarios. A loss or impact analysis then follows, this is done to estimate potential losses of the exposed population, property, services, livelihoods and the environment and to ascertain the impact of such losses to society. Risk profiling then follows thus at this stage the assessor is doing evaluations to identify costs and propose effective disaster risk reduction strategies in terms of the socio-economic concerns of the society. The final stage is formulation of disaster risk reduction strategies and action plans that may include setting priorities, allocating resources(human and material )and initiating disaster risk reduction programmes.
One is drawn to ask the crucial question, Why carry out a disaster risk assessment? The answer to this probably lies in the new paradigm shift whereby development practitioners are more concerned with mitigation, preparedness and prevention of disasters rather than providing relief aid post -disaster. The merits of disaster risk assessment are numerous, notable among them are that it helps organizations and communities to establish relevant early warning systems, it is multi-sectoral in approach which therefore means it involves various stakeholders to get involved in disaster management, it enables communities to strengthen capacities, it helps minimize social and economic impacts in case of a disaster, it also discourages dependency as it is bottom-up in approach. However some demerits do exist notable among them is that it is a long term project, it is not legally binding stakeholders can therefore dump the project while still underway, it may face the problem of lack of political will and as such political decisions may take precedence over disaster programmes,may lack resources –human and material since it is diverse in nature and requires wide consultations.
The following is an example of the achievements made from risk assessment: VietNam has a long tradition of disaster mitigation. When the United Nations General Assembly designated the 1990s as the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, Viet Nam responded by organizing a National Committee and strengthening the role its Central Committee for Flood and Storm Control (CCFSC) plays in disaster mitigation. The CCFSC has developed programmes, plans and measures for disaster reduction in coordination with other relevant organizations, directed the implementation of disaster mitigation activities and coordinated actions with relevant international organizations. In the late 1990s, Viet Nam experienced a number of extreme events, including Typhoon Linda (1997) in the southern coastal area. Although the human and economic losses were tragic, agencies at all levels strengthened their search and rescue capacities, resulting in tens of thousands of evacuations. More than 5 000 people were saved by these efforts. Once the typhoon abated, the government provided assistance to the local fishing communities. As a result of this and other disasters, the government took policy decisions for each part of the country, including improving flood resistance and protecting populated areas, by strengthening the system of dykes and flood diversion structures in northern Viet Nam, policies to prevent and mitigate flood damage in central Viet Nam, and the Mekong River Delta policy which is designed to prepare measures for living with floods and minimizing their damage. In recognition of these achievements, the United Nations awarded Viet Nam the Certificate of Distinction for Disaster Reduction on 11 October 2000, the International Day for Disaster Reduction.(UNEP 2001).
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