We face risk every day—when we get in our cars or walk into the office, there’s always the slim chance that we may not return home. But there is a raft of things we do to protect our lives and livelihoods that make this chance a slim one. It is about minimising the risks and there is usually a dollar amount attached to it. It may be buying insurance, buying a vehicle loaded with safety features or just knowing the evacuation plan at work.

All of these are examples of what we at Tearfund call Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). For us in New Zealand, disasters are not nearly as frequent as they are in low-income countries and the people Tearfund works with are much more vulnerable in disasters than New Zealanders, as they don’t have the same resources to reduce their risk or to cope with the aftermath. For an organisation that is involved in responding to disasters, trying to reduce the risks to the communities we work with, is a priority.

Without it, the costs and losses can huge. For instance, between 1995 and 2015, disasters affected 4.4 billion people, caused USD 2 trillion dollars of damage and killed 1.3 million people. Natural disasters affected people living in low-income countries the most and the most vulnerable communities in those countries.

It has been said that there is no such thing as a 'natural' disaster, only natural hazards. Disaster risk reduction (DRR) aims to reduce the hazards and risks that lead to the loss of life, livelihoods and the damage caused by natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, droughts and cyclones, through an ethic of prevention.

 

DRR is about reducing disaster risks through systematic efforts to analyse and reduce the causal factors of disasters. Reducing exposure to hazards, lessening the vulnerability of people and property, wise management of land and the environment, and improving preparedness and early warning for adverse events are all examples of disaster risk reduction. In other words, disaster risk reduction can save lives and secure hard-won development gains.

DRR is incorporated into most of our overseas development programmes to try to minimise the effects and loss of life when a disaster strikes. Ironically, because DRR is not an immediate need when compared to responding to a disaster, it is one of the areas we find hardest to raise money for. Yet, it has the potential to save lives and reduce damage and loss. When a disaster hits, it can also reverse years of Tearfund’s investment into the communities we are partnering with.

For example, in Vanuatu, communities on the island of Tanna have been taught how to preserve food for emergencies. A woman prepares food for her emergency food kit in Vanuatu, and a Filipino man shows his seedlings that he's growing as part of his farming cooperative


Their sources of food can be wiped out in a matter of hours when a cyclone hits and they do strike Vanuatu frequently. The preserved food can feed them as it can be several days before emergency food can reach them. Community members have also been taught emergency rescue methods and life-saving techniques. In the Philippines, irrigation systems have saved crops that would otherwise have been destroyed by drought and tree planting and risk-reduction education have reduced the risk of landslides.

Tearfund has just launched its Restore Fund where supporters give a regular monthly amount. Along with the advantages of being able to respond faster to disasters, the funds can be used to fund ongoing DRR work.

Click this link if you are interested in taking action to help reduce the loss of lives and livelihoods, by making the vulnerable disaster-ready with a monthly donation.

Click for 10 things you should know about DRR.


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