|@ UNICEF/2010/Andrew Cullen|
Every year on October 15 we celebrate the International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR) worldwide. On this day we are reminded and encouraged that every citizen and government to take part in building more disaster resilient communities and nations.
Mongolia is no stranger to disasters. The most common ones are dzud (long harsh winters which leads to loss of livestock), droughts, floods, storms, wildfires and extreme temperatures. The most recent being 2009-2010 dzud during which about 8.5 million livestock had died, approximately 20% of the country’s livestock population, affecting 769,000 people or 28% of Mongolia’s human population.
With climate change in sight, such events are forecasted to be more frequent and with high intensity. Hence it is important to better prepare for response but more importantly, to work towards mitigation and Disaster Risk Reduction. The effects of disasters are not only felt on human lives but its impact economy and infrastructure could also indirectly affect the population of the country. According to World Bank survey, every $1 spent on DRR can save $7 which would be spent on response.
Mongolia has taken big strides towards strengthening the coherence between DRR, climate change and sustainable development. A Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction was held in Sendai, Japan this year which clearly outlines the targets and priorities in this sector. Mongolian government was one of the first countries to show commitment to the Sendai Framework by inviting the head of UNISDR, Ms Margareta Wahlstrom, to the country for development dialogue focusing on building more resilient Mongolia.
UNICEF realises that women and children are the most vulnerable during disasters. A study conducted by Faculty of Medicine, Tattori University, Japan, highlighted that the infant mortality rate was significantly correlated with declining rate in numbers of livestock (due to natural disasters such as dzud) and a decrease in milk products consumption. Other impacts on children due to climate change are mortality and injury from extreme weather events, increased risk of water scarcity, transmission of waterborne and food-borne diseases, declining livelihoods as noted earlier, disruptions in school attendance, heightened risk of food insecurity and child malnutrition.
UNICEF is working to ensure that there is a response mechanism in place within the organisation to support the government in response to such events. UNICEF also supports National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA), government ministries and other counterparts in disaster risk reduction programmes and projects. Currently we are in infancy stage of our World Wide Initiative of Safe School (WISS) project where we are collaborating with Government, NEMA and other NGOs to launch a pilot in school which will be advocated to be implemented on a broader scale.
Lastly, I hope on this day we all find little ways to make difference and find ways to better prepare for an emergency. Remember, every bit counts!
Nisarg Kalaiya, Disaster Risk Reduction Officer, UNICEF Mongolia