By Dann Okoth
Our response to disaster has often been described as below par.
Most of the time when disaster strikes, authorities are caught unaware leading to loss of lives and damage to property.
The slow response to tragedies has been blamed on lack of leadership and poor resource mobilisation.
But Nairobi and other urban centres can now borrow from findings of a study that provides a raft of interventions, including importance of political leadership in the event of a disaster.
The new study of major urban safety campaign launched by UN two years ago has found that political leadership is more important than a city’s wealth when it comes to protecting the lives and economic assets of cities and towns from disasters.
The ‘Making Cities Resilient Report 2012’ provides a global snapshot of how local governments can reduce disaster risk. A team from London-based International Institute undertook it for Environment and Development led by Senior Fellow David Satterthwaite.
Dr Satterthwaite said: “The Making Cities Resilient campaign is proving that despite rise in extreme weather events and threats posed by climate change, urbanisation does not have to lead to increase in risks. Where city and local governments demonstrate leadership and competence in working with low-income populations living in informal settlements, flood impacts can be reduced and threats from other natural hazards minimised.”
First time in history
He notes that cities, which understand how to prevent recurring losses, will thrive. The campaign is motivating over 1,000 cities and towns to learn how to reduce risks and avoid loss of lives and damages when disaster strikes.
UN office launched the campaign for Disaster Risk Reduction after it was announced that for the first time in history; over 50 per cent of the world’s population now live in cities and urban areas. Majority of the 200 million people affected by floods, earthquakes and other natural hazards each year are urban dwellers.
The campaign has 1,050 members ranging from major metropolises such as San Francisco, Copenhagen, Cape Town and Mumbai to small towns in countries such as Austria and Pakistan.