Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean
Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Partners in action
Because of the occurrence of phenomena, such as the hurricanes in Central America and the Caribbean, landslides in South America, earthquakes in Pakistan, volcanic eruptions in the Philippines, and the tsunami that devastated the social, economic, and cultural structures of Sri Lanka, India, and Indonesia, Plan International is very aware of the impact that events like these have on its work areas.
This article presents some general reflections on the strategy that the Americas have been discussing with Plan International. It represents some first steps toward what will be a regional strategy.
The last decade has seen a marked increase in disasters (caused both by natural phenomena and human intervention in the environment). These disasters represent an enormous hindrance for sustainable development because they cause great, human and economic losses globally, regionally, and nationally. Historical records show that, from the time of the 1920 earthquake in Licuac, China, to the devastating tsunami in 2004, more than 6 million people have died as a direct result of disasters. A high percentage of those who died were children and elders.
The following information is also relevant for the Americas:
Along these lines, Plan International has decided to adjust its disaster response strategy for countries, in the Americas, in order to give greater cohesion to its work. For many years, this work has focused on community development, and has recently included a specific focus on children and their rights (as expressed in the four pillars of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: survival, development, protection, and participation).
On many occasions, disasters have a direct impact on the development of children, who are the focus of Plan International’s work, and post-disaster relief efforts do not necessarily guarantee the recovery of communities where the organization is working. Plan International will, therefore, support the design and implementation of actions to reduce existing vulnerabilities in the various communities where it works, as well as at the level of the Regional Office itself, where it is necessary to carry out processes for raising the level of internal awareness.
The purpose is to raise awareness of the dimensions and implications of disasters. This includes geographical areas larger than what Plan International covers through its work. Although Plan International does not intend to shift from being a development organization to being a disaster relief organization, it is important for this organization to be prepared to work alongside disaster response agencies in each country, especially with the various levels of government offices, and, of course, with the communities. The goal is to develop the capacity needed to respond to various possible scenarios in the areas of disaster preparation, mitigation, and response.
In this context, Plan International’s Regional Office for the Americas has taken steps to develop a reference framework for a regional strategy. In the first phase, emergency and contingency plans have been written for all of Plan International’s twelve country offices in the region. These efforts have been promoted by the Regional Office for the Americas.
The purpose of the risk management strategy is to guide the activities of the Regional Office to help the communities where Plan International has a presence, to reduce vulnerabilities, and respond to disasters in order to guarantee the continuity and comprehensiveness of the community development work focused on children.
2. Area of Application
The risk management strategy is to be applied to the activities of Plan International’s twelve country offices in the region and, more directly, in the communities where this organization is accompanying initiatives and carrying out projects.
This initial strategy includes two areas of intervention: (a) prevention and mitigation of disasters that occur as a result of natural and man-made hazards; and (b) post disaster response, to the impacts of the hazards, through reconstruction activities and actions aimed at recovering the community’s way of life.
3. Main Definitions
Disaster: Disasters are events that have a negative impact on society, property, and the ecological environment, changing a normal situation into an abnormal circumstance that triggers an emergency.
Hazards: Hazards are natural, or man-made, phenomena that cause great trauma to people and damage to the infrastructure of basic services, if they occur in a particular time and place.
Natural hazards: These are hazards in which human beings cannot intervene. Natural hazards arise exclusively from the dynamics of the planet, Earth.
Man-made hazards: These are hazards caused by human
beings. They are the result of the way humans use natural resources
or organize their
4. Outcomes of the First Regional Workshop on Emergency and Contingency Plans
B. Process for Drawing Up Emergency and Contingency Plans
Since most of the twelve Plan International offices in the Americas are located in geographic areas facing multiple hazards, it is necessary to have an emergency preparedness and response plan that will help coordinate the work to be done with in the communities and with other international and governmental organizations. At the same time, the plan must provide security to the families of Plan International workers in the event of a disaster. With these things in mind, the first regional workshop on emergency and contingency plans was held in the City of Knowledge, Panama, on May 8-9, 2006. Participants included representatives of Plan International’s offices in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Peru and Bolivia, and representatives of the management team of the Regional Office.
The goal of the workshop was to discuss, reflect on, and make proposals for drawing up communications, resource mobilization, and administrative protocols and guidelines. Presentations were made by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on topics related to shelters, children’s rights during times of emergency, and forming regional teams to follow up on the initiatives and actions of each country in the area of risk management.
C. Protocols/Guidelines Developed
The plans must consider: