|IDNDR - Informs - Number 09-10, Special Edition, 1996 (IDNDR)|
|IDNDR Partners in action|
We hope to promote the exchange of ideas and
experience, and strengthen ties between those whom take time to share
information. These short news clips are intended to serve as a bridge between
different countries, organizations and
Since 1960, natural disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean have caused over 180,000 deaths and property damage worth approximately US$ 54 trillion. The health sector has been particularly hard hit. Hundreds have lost their lives when hospitals and other health facilities have collapsed as a result of natural disasters. Health services have been cut off at the very moment they were needed most.
As many as 50% of the more than 15,000 hospitals in the Region may be at high risk to natural disasters. A considerable number of these health facilities lack disaster mitigation programs, emergency plans or the appropriate infrastructure for resisting earthquakes and hurricanes.
The International Conference on Disaster Mitigation in Health Facilities was held from 26 to 28 February 1996 in Mexico City. The meeting was convened by the Pan American Health Organization and the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), in conjunction with Mexico's Ministries of Health and the Interior, the Mexican Social Security Institute, the Secretariat of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) of the United Nation's Humanitarian Affairs Department, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the World Bank.
The meeting was attended by 500 representatives of governments, international and regional governmental and non-governmental organizations and the private and scientific sectors of the Latin American and Caribbean countries.
Some of the results of the meeting included:
· A set of "Recommendations and Goals" which urge all governments and regional and international institutions to adopt policies to reduce the vulnerability of existing and projected hospitals to hurricanes and earthquakes.
· An outline of mitigation strategies in the design, construction, retrofitting and maintenance of health facilities. These strategies will be submitted for the consideration of technical and political decision-makers in the health sector, as well as to bilateral and multilateral donor agencies, development planning organizations, academic institutions and other sectors, both public and private.
· A Five-Year Action Plan for initiating or strengthening the disaster mitigation process in hospitals in each country was recommended. To the degree allowed by local political, economic, and organizational conditions, it was recommended that by the year 2001 all "priority" hospital structures be able to withstand moderat to high intensity events without suffering functional damage and without danger of collapse.
· Recommendations aimed at ensuring that the level of vulnerability to natural hazards and the level of preparedness be criteria for accrediting hospitals.
One of the-most important results of the Conference was the personal commitment developed or strengthened among the participants to promote disaster mitigation strategies in new constructions and retrofitting projects. Participants requested PAHO to continue its disaster mitigation program in the areas of promotion, training and regular evaluation of achievements in the nations and territories of Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Conference "Recommendations and Goals", the reports of the Technical Commissions on Seismic and Hurricane Mitigation, as well as other documents and case studies presented during the Conference, can be requested from the Disaster Preparedness Program of PAHO/WHO, firstname.lastname@example.org, or the Regional Documentation Center or they can be downloaded electronically from the World Wide Web at: http://www.paho.org/english/disaster.htm (look under "Special Reports")
"Disaster prevention in schools and hospitals - it's also your business!" This was IDNDR's slogan in 1993. Since then, PAHO/WHO has strengthened its Health Facilities Mitigation Program (see previous story) throughout the region. Since the end of 1994, the Organization of American States (OAS) has promoted a Natural Hazards Vulnerability Reduction Program for the Education Sector in Central America. The initiative has been implemented by the OAS's Unit of Environment and Sustainable Development in collaboration with the Unit of Social Development and Education and the financial support of the European Union Humanitarian Office (ECHO).
The program supports the efforts by the education sector of the Central American countries to incorporate natural hazard vulnerability reduction into the planning and implementation of educational facilities' construction, extension, remodeling and maintenance programs.
The Second Regional Meeting of the OAS/ECHO Natural Hazards Vulnerability Reduction Program for the Education Sector in Central America was held from 14 to 16 August 1996 in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. At the meeting, national representatives discussed achievements in the various components of the education sector, and disseminated the results of the risk assessments of education facilities carried out in pilot regions in each country as a way of establishing a vulnerability profile of the risks schools face from natural hazards. The profiles will be the basis for reevaluating investment projects in schools.
Representatives of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama took part in the meeting. Also present were representatives of international organizations such as the Social Development and Education Unit of the OAS, the Educational and Cultural Coordinating Office for Central America (CECC), the Coordination Center for Natural Disaster Prevention in Central America (CEPREDENAC), the Regional Office for Latin America of the Department for Humanitarian Affairs of the United Nations (DHA), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Regional Office of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR).
On the basis of a working document, "The Role of International Technical Cooperation and Funding Agencies in the Reduction of the Vulnerability of the Education Sector to Natural Hazards in Central America", presented by the OAS's Sustainable Development Unit, discussions centered on the actions required by the education sector to develop a comprehensive natural hazards vulnerability reduction program. The actions fit into the four main areas of the vulnerability reduction program: policies, planning, projects and preparedness. Four key actors were identified: (i) the Ministry of Education in each country, (ii) national institutions entrusted with the building of education facilities; (iii) regional organizations and (iv) international technical support and/or funding institutions.
Participants agreed on the following priority actions for the sector:
· Policies: Ministries of Education must recognize natural hazards vulnerability reduction as a key goal of the education sector, and appoint or strengthen National Advisory Committees. Regional organizations must promote resolutions that support Education Ministries in their efforts to incorporate into their curricula the question of disasters and the reduction of schools' vulnerability. International technical cooperation or funding institutions must ensure that natural hazards management and mitigation measures are a key component of their technical and funding support. International organizations must ensure that information about natural hazards is incorporated in the development and implementation of the projects they finance.
· Planning: The relevant institutions must be supported in order to set up or update information systems about education facilities that include natural hazards vulnerability assessments. National institutions entrusted with the building of education infrastructure must incorporate into their investment plans all relevant data about natural hazards. International technical cooperation and funding organizations must demand that information about the potential impact of natural hazards be included in all projects submitted for their approval.
· Investment Projects Ministries of Education and Public Works Departments in charge of education infrastructure must train their technical personnel so that projects meet widely accepted standards and criteria for vulnerability reduction as part of their normal planning. Regional institutions must facilitate bilateral, intra-regional and inter-regional exchange of technical experiences. International technical cooperation and funding organizations must support the development of the technical standards required to mitigate the impact of natural hazards on education infrastructure, as well as finance mitigation investment projects.
· Preparedness: Emergency preparedness and mitigation measures to reduce the nonstructural problems identified in education facilities must be incorporated into the broader emergency awareness and education programs in place in each country.
For more information, contact:
Pedro Bastidas, Environment and Sustainable Development Unit, OAS. 1889 F. Street, N.W., Room 340-V. Washington, D.C. 20006, USA. Fax: (1-202)458-3560.
The Coordination Center for the Prevention of Natural Disasters in Central America (CEPREDENAC) has been based in Panama since January 1966. It is funded by the Central American governments with the support of Scandinavian countries, particularly Sweden. In May 1996, the Center the First Workshop on the Results of the Assessment of National Organizations for Emergency Management in Central America. The Panama City meeting brought together representatives of CEPREDENAC member nations and international organizations such as PAHO/WHO, OFDA-USAID and the International Federation of Red Cross Societies.
The objective of the workshop was to set up a forum for the review and discussion of common problems in disaster management, such as the legal, institutional, financial and planning situation of the organizations entrusted with emergency management. Working guidelines were established to facilitate the exchange of experiences as well as cooperation among countries in disaster prevention, as means of strengthening the planning and response capacity of national emergency organizations.
From a practical point of view, the workshop provided an X-ray of each country's awareness of its vulnerability to natural hazards, the strengths and weaknesses, the opportunities and threats.
A glance at some of the discussions indicates that disaster prevention is still considered unimportant in the subregion, a subject alien to the culture and awareness of citizens which generates little interest among those who have decision-making powers over public and private investment. Most of the efforts by countries in the region focus on improving emergency response capacity. However, the financial support required by the bodies in charge of disaster management still has not materialized fully. Legislation on risks and disasters in Central America is outdated and deals with emergency management rather than prevention or mitigation, although Central American countries are introducing reforms.
Participants underscored their conviction that natural disasters demand joint efforts by all countries in the subregion as the only way to confront successfully such events in the future. There is also a need for increased awareness of the risks involved among all political and technical levels of government, the private sector and the population at large. Priority must also be given to the use of regional, national and local media to help develop this awareness of the need for prevention. It was also considered of key importance to maintain fluid communications among state authorities, the private sector, planners and all those in charge of making decisions concerning public and private investment in each country.
For more information, contact:
The author: Sergio Paniagua, Board Member, CEPREDENAC, Costa Rica.
Fax: (506) 234-2347.
E-mail: spaniagu @ cariari.ucr.ac.cr
Rolando Durán, Executive Secretary, CEPREDENAC, Panama
Fax: (507) 236-1341.
Three-day workshops were held in May in Argentina and Paraguay with the support of the Regional Offices of IDNDR and UN/DHA (Disaster Mitigation Branch, DHA), the UNDP, PAHO and the Civil Defense and Emergency Offices of each country. In Argentina, workshop participants included over 60 provincial officials and professionals in various disciplines related to civil defense, meteorology and health. In Paraguay, sectors such as planning, education, municipal development, environment, health and emergencies were represented. The workshops served as a forum for various sectors to meet and discuss future coordination and organization strategies.
The purpose of both workshops was to launch a discussion at the national level on the need for incorporating risk factors and natural hazards development plans. The link between natural disasters and environmental degradation, and the need for disaster preparedness and mitigation were also discussed. In both countries. round tables were held to analyze recent disasters, which in the case of Argentina included at least two caused by human action.
The methodology and didactic materials developed by the United Nations Disaster Management Training Program were used and distributed among participants.
For more information, contact:
Regional IDNDR Office (address at the back) or the Regional UN/DHA Office. Ricardo Mena, Ecuador. Fax: (593-2) 469-810. E-mail: email@example.com
With the support of the Regional IDNDR Office, the Honduran Permanent Committee on Emergencies (COPECO) and the UNDP organized in August 1996 a workshop for U.N. agencies and sustainable development, environmental and disaster response organizations in Honduras. The meeting was aimed at developing greater coordination in the event of a disaster, gaining a greater understanding of the country's vulnerability and risk levels, and developing a joint agenda for disaster mitigation and preparedness.
The workshop was facilitated by representatives of the IDNDR Regional Office, DHA, PAHO, OAS and CEPREDENAC. A second workshop drafted recommendations for the work plan of the Disaster Mitigation Program approved by UNDP which will be implemented by COPECO in districts on the Atlantic coast of Honduras, an area highly vulnerable to flooding. The project's objective is to organize Local and Municipal Committees and prepare local risk maps and early-warning systems.
For more information, contact:
Katia Cooper, UNDP, Honduras. Fax: (504) 32-8716.
Ecuador's capital, Quito (2,850 meters above sea level), lies at the foot of Pichincha volcano (4,650 meters above sea level). It is crisscrossed by numerous seasonal streams that descend from the mountain and are characterized by their sudden surges and high sediment content. This causes frequent flooding in the city, which is also affected by landslides and mudslides that originate in the foothills of the volcano.
In order to study and minimize these problems, the Municipal Water and Sewerage Authority of Quito (EMAAP), The National Meteorology and Hydrology Institute of Ecuador (INAMHI) and the Institut Français de Recherche Scientifique pour le Développement en Cooperation (ORSTOM) have launched the SISHILAD Project, aimed at identifying the risks posed by these events and establish an effective operational forecasting and early warning system for events connected with extreme precipitation.
These goals were set because Quito is in a very heterogeneous mountainous setting, and adopting indiscriminately monitoring and forecasting methodologies developed for other physical and geographical contexts would simply not work. Therefore, experimental hydro-meteorological, edaphic and geotechnical research is currently in progress on the slopes of Pichincha volcano. -Modern physical and mathematical modeling procedures are being used, as well as geographic information systems (GIS) combined with numeric geomorphic models. All this will increase the reliability of forecasts, since they will be based on real data.
A hydro-meteorological network - made up of nine pluviographs and five limnigraphs - has been in operation for a year in two experimental basins. The data gathered will allow scientists to calibrate and validate a distributed-parameters hydrologic model that will help to assess the volume and flows of water into the basins which enter the sewage system. Studies are also underway on the geospatial variability of rainfall, which is essential in order to define the risks posed by downpours and the impact of floods. Edaphologic research has focused on physical onsite simulation of rainfall in order to learn about the hydrodynamics of the soil (hydraulic conductivity, runoff coefficients, etc.), as well as the types of erosion and soil loss and the influence of vegetation on the magnitude of superficial runoff. These tasks involve a detailed mapping of soils (including their physical, chemical and mineralogical characteristics), the establishment of experimental lots of various dimensions, and aerial photography monitoring of erosion.
By the time the project is completed in 1998, a hydrologic forecasting and landslide monitoring system will be in place that will reduce the risks to the city. The system is expected to operate in real time and provide reliable environmental data.
For more information, contact:
Dr. Edgar Ayabaca, EMAAP-Quito, Proyecto SISHILAD
Apdo. 1370, Quito, Ecuador. FAX.: (593-2) 446-326.
Universities are called on to play an essential role in changing outmoded ways of thinking and in promoting a disaster prevention culture. That is the reason many efforts are under way in the region to incorporate the issue of disaster administration in the curricula of various disciplines such as public health and engineering. For example universities in Venezuela and Peru offer courses on civil protection, and the University of Antioquia in Colombia is developing a master's degree on Contemporary Social Aspects, with emphasis on risk reduction and disaster prevention.
In June 1996, the Faculty of Engineering of the University of the Andes in Bogota, Colombia, offered a course on "Disaster Prevention and Risk Reduction and Emergency Preparedness". The course was aimed mainly at local-level officials who play an important role in disaster management. It was also an attempt to attract students of various disciplines, and an opportunity to assess the degree of interest in the subject and to test the curriculum developed for the master's degree, which will get underway next January.
Altogether 70 students enrolled, mostly regional and local disaster prevention and response coordinators, professionals of the energy sector, firefighters, civil defense and national planning officials, university professors, Red Cross officials and personnel from the Ministry of the Environment and the health sector.
Subjects covered by the course included the following:
· Vulnerability analysis; risks and hazards and how to assess them. Structural and non-structural measures and risk reduction.
· Cost/benefit analyses.
· Early warming systems and emergency and contingency plans.
· Sustainable development, vulnerability and the urban habitat.
· Goals of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR).
The experience was considered highly positive and useful in developing a formal curriculum on the subject.
For more information, contact: Dr. Omar Darío Cardona, Facultad de Ingeniería Civil, Universidad de los Andes. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The School of Public Health of the University of Costa Rica is organizing a Central American Course on Natural Disasters and Emergency Response which will be offered in San Jose, Costa Rica from 11 November to 7 December 1996. Participating institutions and academic units include the School of Public Health, which is coordinating the course, the Central American School of Geology, the School of Communication Sciences, the Health Bureau and the National Emergency Commission, with the advice and support of the PAHO/WHO program on disasters. The course is targeted at professionals and academics who work in the field of disaster management. The objective of the course is to ensure that people in the field are better able to manage the various kinds of disasters the subregion is prone to by emphasizing prevention, team-work, the use of available techniques and instruments for data gathering, and the exchange of experiences at the Central American level. The course will last four weeks (180 hours), included field work on two weekends. Registration costs US$500.
For more information, contact:
Dr. William Vargas González or Dr. Rocío Sáenz Madrigal,
University of Costa Rica
Tel: (506) 207-4455/207-4456.
Fax: (506) 253-6436
Aware of the fact that prevention is a sound investment, and that a situation can be confronted more easily if it can be measured or forecast, the National Civil Defense Institute of Peru has launched the GEODECI Project, a Geographic Information System (GIS) for Civil Defense.
The project's objective is to facilitate data interpretation. GEODECI will provide municipalities with geographic information about local hazards and vulnerability in the form of maps, images, graphs, text and various multimedia resources which can stimulate decision-makers creativity and imagination.
The GEODECI project has the support of a team of specialists in GIS remote sensing and digital processing of remote sensing data, as well as computer-assisted design (CAD) and multimedia.
For more information, contact:
PROYECTO GEODECI, Instituto Nacional de Defensa Civil, Esquinas Calle 1 y 21 Urb. Corpac, San Isidro. Lima 27, PERU. Tel: (51-1) 224-0918.
Fax: (51-1) 224-3349