By Mariana Osihn
ROME, 25 March 2013 - Italy has moved to empower its leaders to make better informed decisions to reduce the country's overall disaster risk.
The government is in the process of establishing a national disaster loss database in the wake of last year's devastating series of earthquakes and after-shocks that caused EUR13 billion of losses.
The disaster, in the Emilia-Romagna, Lombardia and Veneto regions, resulted in the loss of a stock of Parmesan cheese that alone was worth an estimated EUR200 million.
The new database will more accurately account for the real economic costs from disasters. It will also form a baseline from which past and future risk reduction policies and initiatives can be assessed.
Detailed studies of the 2012 earthquake, including an analysis of the sequence of the disaster, its effects, the nature of the costs, and the overall response, have now been captured.
The database represents a major boost to strengthening community and national resilience in Italy. Such a critical tool, unfortunately, remains lacking in many other hazard-prone European countries.
"The Italian Government is looking at this topic as a key feature to develop a multi-risk approach database in order to contain all the historical and future figures regarding the disasters affecting our country," said Mr. Luigi D'Angelo, Head of the International Relations Unit of the Italian Civil Protection.
The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) is partnering with the Italian government in these efforts. The Head of UNISDR's Regional Office for Europe, Ms. Paola Albrito said: "The development of disasters data losses represents a valuable step to provide evidence based support to decision makers." In an associated move, Italy has also recently introduced new legislation to make earthquake insurance available country-wide.
Italy is the fifth country in Europe to work towards the establishment of a national loss disaster database following in the footsteps of Albania, Croatia, France and Serbia.
Albania, in particular, has made significant advances. It became the first European country to adopt methodology on collecting data on disaster losses advocated by UNISDR and the CIMA Research Foundation - International Center on Environmental Monitoring.
More than 50 senior officials from ministers, institutions and NGOs in Albania discussed procedures at a workshop to build capacity on the collection of data that was supported by UNISDR and the CIMA Research Foundation.
Albania is building momentum in terms of strengthening its approach to disaster risk reduction and is an active participant in the UNISDR-WMO regional project 'Building Resilience in Western Balkans and Turkey' (supported by the European Commission) as well as the Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Initiative (DPPI) for South Eastern Europe.