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International Day for Disaster Reduction

Development Ministry increases commitment for disaster preparedness


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13.10.2017 | BONN – The economic damage caused by natural disasters amounts to 300 billion US dollars on average every year. And every year, 26 million people fall into poverty as a result of extreme weather events. Hard-won development gains are eroded by disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes or flooding.

Under the motto Home Safe Home, this year’s UN International Day for Disaster Reduction seeks to raise awareness about the need to take action to reduce exposure to disaster.

In order to protect the homes of people throughout the world, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is engaging in extensive disaster risk management activities. It is thus helping to reduce the exposure of people and goods to natural hazards. In 2015, the world adopted an international framework for disaster risk management in Sendai, Japan. Since then, Germany has launched various development-policy measures to reduce the negative impacts of natural disasters worldwide, for instance by promoting disaster prevention through awareness raising campaigns, early warning systems and financial support programmes that provide help once a disaster has occurred.

In response to the strong earthquakes in Nepal in 2015, for example, the BMZ initiated a reconstruction programme aimed at reducing risks. The programme has helped to rehabilitate and set up 37 health posts for roughly 50,000 people in remote areas; in addition, four out of an envisaged total of 14 schools have also been rehabilitated. But the project involves more than construction measures. By establishing and supporting community-based disaster risk management committees it contributes to sustainable disaster prevention and improved preparedness. Various training programmes complement this process. Some 2,000 people who have suffered from earthquakes, 40 per cent of which are women, have been trained in earthquake-proof building techniques. In addition, the BMZ is helping to better dovetail humanitarian aid, reconstruction and development.

Ingrid-Gabriela Hoven, Director-General for Global Issues at the BMZ explains: "We are aiming for global disaster risk management. Whether an extreme event becomes a disaster very much depends on the vulnerability of the societies affected by the situation. That is why we are helping our partner countries become more resilient against natural disasters. In addition, however, we need to make better use of intelligent mechanisms for hedging risks, for instance insurance solutions, risk pools and other instruments so as to absorb the risks to the extent possible."

Disaster prevention is important; not only because it saves people’s lives, but also because it makes good sense from an economic point of view: it is considerably cheaper to invest in prevention measures than to rebuild after a disaster has struck. Innovative financing instruments such as insurance products provide quick and cost-effective relief when a disaster has occurred.

The InsuResilience Climate Risk Insurance Initiative, which the German government initiated in 2015, marks a big step in Germany's efforts to implement the Sendai agreement. Climate risk insurance schemes help people who grapple to make a living at subsistence level to quickly get their feet back on the ground after a disaster has struck and protect them from slipping into extreme poverty. The Development Ministry has already made more than 190 million euros available for rolling out insurance schemes for poor and vulnerable people in developing countries. The BMZ cooperates with developing countries and partner organisations such as the World Bank, the Vulnerable Twenty Group (V20), the World Food Programme (WFP), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Insurance Development Forum (IDF).

In addition, the UN climate summit (COP23) in November is to serve as a launching pad for a new global cooperation. A Global Partnership for climate and disaster risk financing, welcomed by the G20 states, is to help tap into the full potential of climate risk insurance and close the protection gap for especially vulnerable countries.

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