October 13th marked the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, a day focused on improving resilience at a national and community level, to mitigate the impact that natural disasters have on the environment, the economy, and most importantly, on those communities affected by them.
Natural disasters are increasing in both their frequency and impact due to a confluence of factors including climate change, rapid urbanisation, population growth and environmental degradation. The past twelve months have been the costliest for natural disasters on record; from the Chilean earthquake to the typhoons and flooding in the Philippines. The International Organisation for Migration estimates that every year, 200 million people are affected, over 70,000 killed, and close to USD $35 billion is lost in damage caused by natural disasters. Of those affected, 60 per cent are from the lowest income bracket, mostly earning less than a US dollar a day. A salient characteristic of natural disasters is that investment and planning tends to be reactionary. But it’s also true that preparedness and prevention are critical to reducing fatalities and destruction.
Communities depend on information before, during and after disasters. This means that ICTs become a lifeline for those affected. This fact ranks the mobile industry among the preeminent global bodies with the capacity to address disaster risk reduction- a reality that has been taken up in the initiatives of our members, including NTT DoCoMo, Vodafone, Smart Communications and AT&T.
A keystone of this vital work lies in establishing coordinated and reliable communications for national and international response agencies and customers. When disasters strike, these agencies need trusted points of contact within our industry. To underline this, we are creating a Coordination Database of key personnel within Mobile Operators who can liaise with the GSMA, and external facing humanitarian and disaster response agencies. We call on all operators to nominate individuals in their organisations to participate in this initiative, to improve the flow of information during crises, streamline requests and ensure a more coordinated and effective response.
This year, the United Nations has selected “Women and Girls: The (in)visible Force of Resilience” as the focus for their campaign on disaster risk reduction. This theme was selected to highlight the centrality of women in all areas of preparedness and resilience: from environmental policy to community-based activities.
To nominate an individual to participate in Disaster Response’s Coordination Database, email firstname.lastname@example.org.