Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma commemorates 2019 International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, 6 Dec

South Africa celebrates the 2019 International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction

The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma will lead commemoration of the 2019 International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR) taking place on 6 December 2019 in Bloemfontein, Free State Province. The commemoration will be held in partnership with the Free State Provincial government led by the Premier, Ms Sisi Ntombela.

The theme for this year’s event is: Substantially reduce disaster damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services, among them health and educational facilities, including through developing their resilience.

Historically, dealing with disasters focused on emergency response, but there was recognition globally that disasters are not natural (even if the associated hazard is) and that it is only by reducing and managing conditions of hazard, exposure and vulnerability of communities and services that we can prevent losses and alleviate the impacts of disasters. Since we cannot reduce the severity of natural hazards, the main opportunity for reducing risk lies in reducing vulnerability and exposure.

Reducing these two components of risk requires identifying and reducing the underlying drivers of risk, which are particularly related to poor economic and uneven and unregulated urban development choices and practices, degradation of the environment, poverty and inequality and climate change, which create and exacerbate conditions of hazard, exposure and vulnerability. Addressing these underlying risk drivers will reduce disaster risk, lessen the impacts of climate change and, consequently, maintain the sustainability of development. South Africa is one of the countries that are increasingly affected by the impact of hazards and disasters which threatens to undermine service delivery and development objectives.

In an effort to mitigate disaster risks, the IDDR was initiated in 1989, after a call by the United Nations General Assembly for a day to promote a global culture of risk-awareness and disaster reduction. The IDDR is held annually on October 13, to celebrates how people and communities around the world are reducing their exposure to disasters and raising awareness about the importance of reducing disaster risks. . For 2019, South African authorities have decided to defer the commemorative evet to a later date give the commitments during October and November on the conceptualisation and launch of the District Development Model. The theme for this year’s IDDR emphasises the importance of reducing the impacts from disasters to critical infrastructure and basic services delivered to communities.

The 2019 edition continues as part of the “Sendai Seven” campaign, centred on the seven targets of the Sendai Framework. This year will focus on Target (d) of the Sendai Framework: Substantially reduce disaster damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services, among them health and education facilities, including through developing their resilience by 2030.

Given the high rate of disasters across the world, including in South Africa, leading to high death tolls, it is especially important to ensure that critical infrastructure such as schools and hospitals are built in appropriate locations and are compliant with Building Regulations in order to minimise failure during disasters. In other words, critical infrastructure should be designed and built to withstand known natural and anthropogenic hazards that are prevalent in the areas where such infrastructure is located. Other areas of critical infrastructure that help to achieve other Sendai Framework targets include potentially life-saving utilities and services such as food and water supply, energy, telecommunications and transport.

In 2016, the “Sendai Seven” campaign by United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) was launched centred on the seven targets of the framework, the first of which is reducing disaster mortality. The global campaign aims to create a wave of awareness about actions taken to reduce mortality around the world. Last year’s (2018|) target focused on prevention, protection and reducing the number of people affected by disasters in economic terms. The Sendai Seven Campaign is an opportunity for all, including governments, local governments, community groups, civil society organisations, the private sector, international organisations and the UN family, to promote best practices at the international, regional and national level across all sectors, to reduce disaster risk and disaster losses.

It is within the above context that Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is making a clarion call to all South Africans to join hands and push for greater ambition on the reduction of disaster risks in every part of our lives. As the current generation, it is in our hands to meet the objectives of the Sendai Framework by ensuring that we reduce the risk of disasters and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals so as to handover to the next generation, a stable world, emphasised Minister Dlamini-Zuma.

As international days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity, Minister urged community to embrace IDDR as an advocacy tool and a necessary platform.

As South Africa joins the rest of the world to commemorate the IDDR 2019, Minister urged the communities to change their attitudes to disaster risk and how we design sustainable infrastructure (resilient infrastructure). Minister emphasised that to ensure that we take everyone along this journey to meet the goals we set ourselves to reduce disasters as they inflict horrendous suffering and can wipe out decades of development gains in an instant.

South Africa observes the IDDR annually as directed by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (1996, Section 23) which mandates government to ensure people live in a safer environment not harmful to their health or well-being; as well as being signatory to the (UNDRR) which was created in December 1999 to ensure the implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

The commemoration also provides a platform to encourage individuals, communities, all spheres of government, private sector and civil society to contribute and become agents of change in building disaster resilient communities, countries and regions. The 2019 commemoration is also an opportune platform for South Africa’s Government to advocate for Disaster Risk Strategies that encourage Investing in disaster reduction for resilience. This is also guided by Resolution 64/200 of the United Nations General Assembly; which, amongst other deliverables, also reaffirmed the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction as the primary mechanism for development, promotion and improvement of disaster risk reduction methods.

The 2019 commemoration of IDDR has great significance for South Africa as it take place within the backdrop of the recently experienced disasters precipitated by the four (4) tornadoes accompanied by severe thunderstorms that hit the KwaZulu-Natal province. Sadly, these tornadoes resulted in twenty-nine (29) fatalities since 25 October 2019. According to reports at our disposal, a total of 1878 homes were destroyed and some damaged in various district municipalities within the province. These extreme weather events follow a series of torrential storms that led to devastating floods that severely affected the Eastern Cape, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces earlier in April 2019. These floods sadly claimed 90 lives and left a trail of destruction in their wake.

It is within this context that our efforts to deal with disasters must involve every part of society, government, non-governmental organizations and the professional and private sector. It therefore requires a people-centred and multi-sector approach, building resilience to multiple, cascading and interacting hazards and creating a culture of prevention and resilience.

The 2019 commemoration will take place on 05 and 06 December 2019. The main event will be preceded by a Practitioners Working Session taking place on the 5th of December 2019 which is a practitioners session reflecting on disaster risk management issues linked to the 2019 IDDR theme. This is where subject experts and technical practitioners are set to engage on the key areas guided by the 2019 theme.

The Minister of CoGTA, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma will deliver a keynote address at the main event set to take place on 06 December 2019. On this two days, other government leadership from national, provincial, local government, and other stakeholders will attend and are expected to re-affirm South Africa’s commitment for the implementation of the Sendai Framework and also encourage the citizenry to change to be part of the efforts to reduce the impact of disasters in our country. This event also provides an opportunity for the Minister to encourage the private sector, particularly those responsible for financing of critical infrastructure to ensure that measures to strengthen the resilience of infrastructure are embedded in the design and construction of these infrastructures to minimise possible losses, failures and disruptions when disasters occur.

Representatives from the three spheres of the South African government, United Nations Office for Disaster Reduction and other stakeholders are invited to form part of the event.

Commemoration will include these key aspects:

Inputs from the Practitioners Session

Inputs by key sectors

Keynote address by the Minister of CoGTA

Source: Government of South Africa