UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination teams reach 1,000 deployments
In 2009, a relatively mild year in terms of natural disasters, UNDAC, which is managed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), deployed 11 teams in response to sudden-onset disasters in Africa, Asia and the Pacific and Central America. Nine of those disasters were related to floods or cyclones. Two were earthquakes, one of which triggered a tsunami in Samoa. A total of 57 UNDAC members from 20 different countries, as well as from OCHA and other organizations were deployed on those missions.
"Since its inception in 1993, UNDAC has proven to be an exceptionally professional international disaster response system, supporting governments in time of sudden-onset distress," said Arjun Katoch, head of OCHA's Field Coordination Support Section, which manages the UNDAC system and also serves as the secretariat of the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG). "In conjunction with INSARAG, UNDAC facilitates the use of personnel and assets from many countries to assist a disaster affected country within 24 hours of a disaster striking," said Katoch.
One of the most notable UNDAC missions this year was the deployment in response to the earthquake in Sumatra, Indonesia. Within hours, the first UNDAC team member had departed from Zurich, Switzerland, in a special Swiss plane, which also carried the Swiss Rescue team. The entire UNDAC was on the ground 13 hours later. In total, 21 countries and organizations comprising 668 emergency responders and 67 search dogs responded and worked around the clock conducting Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) and carrying out other humanitarian operations under challenging conditions. The UNDAC team played a pivotal role in assisting the national authorities to ensure that USAR life-saving operations were in line with INSARAG guidelines.
Other important UNDAC deployments in 2009 include two missions to West Africa, one to Benin and one to Burkina Faso. Burkina Faso was experiencing the worst flooding for 90 years. There was also a mission in response to flooding in Namibia. UNDAC's first induction course for West Africa also took place, bringing 20 countries into the UNDAC system and helping to build regional and national disaster response capacity.
When not responding to emergencies, the UNDAC system also offers disaster response preparedness missions, which undertake analysis of national disaster preparedness systems and procedures and are provided at no cost to a requesting Government. In 2009, three such UNDAC disaster response preparedness missions were deployed to Cambodia, Papua New Guinea and Peru, with a total of 31 UNDAC members from 16 countries and regional organizations, the UN Environment Programme, the Red Cross Federation and OCHA taking part. The missions presented reports to the Governments with recommendations on strengthening the national disaster preparedness and response systems.
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