Charlotte Benson, a Disaster Risk Management Specialist with ADB, discusses how countries like Philippines can best prepare for severe disasters like Super Typhoon Haiyan that devastated the country last Friday.
Countries can do an awful lot, first they can invest in disasters reduction both in structural measures such as flood control and also non-structural measures such as sensitive land use planning and the enforcement of appropriate building codes. They can invest in early warning systems to ensure that when disasters – natural - head on its way, people evacuate in the affected areas as we saw successfully in the Philippines over the weekend. And they can also plan ahead financially for disasters so when a disaster strikes there is sufficient resources in place to ensure that the relief, early recovery and reconstruction process is able to proceed in a timely way with all needs met.
Q: What kind of measures can a country take to ensure loss of lives is minimized?
A: Early warning system was extremely effective in saving many lives. We saw it India last month, exactly the same thing when about 0.8 million people were moved out of harm's way before the east coast of the country was struck by a cyclone. This is a very effective relatively cheap way of saving lives particularly where is it supported with effective dissemination systems for example using community based approaches and whether has been extensive training so that people understand what to do when they hear a warning.
Q: Where should rebuilding efforts from these kinds of disasters start?
A: The first step is obviously to do a comprehensive post disaster needs assessment, which would look both at the losses and reconstruction needs. This cannot begin immediately obviously it will interfere with the humanitarian relief efforts but at the same time should not so prolong that some reconstruction begins without a full assessment. This process will determine the priorities over the next 6 months, 12 months, and into the longer term and will provide a comprehensive and hopefully coordinated approach to the reconstruction efforts. It should of course take on the hand of the community perspective as well and ensure there is close coordination with development partners.