Professor Andrew Collins who leads the Disaster and Development Network at Northumbria University gave an important talk at IHRR on addressing hazard, risk and disaster in society. We share with you some audio highlights from the seminar along with some interesting historical data about the number of people reported affected by disasters.
Professor Collins referred to resolving disasters as mainly a function of three dimensions: politics, people’s behaviour, and science and technology.
The total deaths caused by natural disasters last year was 9,656 according to the World Disasters Report, 90 per cent below the average for the decade, and perhaps a sign that work in disaster risk reduction is helping to reduce loss of life. Another report from the Annual Disaster Statistical Review records disasters in 2013 as having the lowest level of human impact in comparison to the last 16 years.
The Secretary General of the IFRC (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies) said this about addressing behavioural change in relation to the recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa: “The one thing that is certain is that we will have poorly sustained impact if we do not adequately take into account people’s cultures, beliefs and attitudes in relation to risk, and if we do not build on local knowledge”. This certainly includes the importance of addressing the role of religion in how people view disaster and local community resilience.
Prof Collins also addressed the important role of community involvement in reducing the impact of disasters which seems underutilised. This is where people take the lead in disaster risk reduction in their own communities, something found to be effective during the aftermath of a number of disasters including the 2008 Indian Ocean Tsunami.
Individuals and organisations dedicated to disaster risk reduction and those working in humanitarian aid, such as in parts of the world engaged in conflict, are now working together as they share common principles. Whether it’s reducing war caused by human conflicts or the effects of a disaster, it is still about reducing exposure to harm and preventing loss of life.