By Denis McClean
AMMAN, 18 March 2013 - UNISDR Chief Margareta Wahlström met yesterday with senior government ministers of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan who briefed her on the challenge to disaster risk management in the resource-starved country as it seeks to meet the needs of an estimated 440,000 Syrian refugees.
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Nasser Joudah, said he was looking forward to receiving feedback from UNISDR following the country's completion of its first report on implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action, the global agreement on disaster risk reduction.
He expressed his satisfaction that the 1st Arab Regional Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction is opening in Aqaba tomorrow despite the current challenges facing the country and stated Jordan's willingness to co-operate fully with UNISDR on future measures.
Ms. Wahlström said UNISDR was encouraged at the country's efforts to engage in the longer-term work around disaster risk reduction in partnership with UNDP, Swiss Development Cooperation and others.
She said: "Jordan's reporting against HFA implementation is important not just for assessing the state of resilience across the country but also in helping to shape the HFA2 which will be agreed in 2015.
"I would also like to commend the on-going work to build and develop a National Disaster Loss Data Base which is vitally important for understanding future risk and justifying measures which will reduce the country's exposure to a wide range of hazards including drought, floods and earthquakes."
Dr. Jafar Hassan, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, told Ms. Wahlström that the country's resources were stretched to the limit by the refugee crisis. Classrooms and health centres were overcrowded and there were lines for bread and big demands for more water and electricity especially in the northern governorates where the refugees arrive from Syria.
He said it was a challenge to focus on more long-term issues around disaster risk reduction in such a context. However, he assured Ms. Wahlström that he continued to be concerned by risks from natural hazards, particularly earthquakes, and requested support in identifying good models for earthquake insurance.
Ms. Wahlström also received an extensive briefing at the HQ of the Jordanian Civil Defence (JCD) which is now present in 164 locations around the country and responded to 211,296 incidents in 2012.
The JCD is the focal point for the HFA in Jordan and is currently examining how best to establish a National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction.
The JCD has partnered with UNDP on key projects and programmes such as integration of climate change adaptation into disaster risk reduction; reinforced buildings and flood risk reduction efforts in the coastal city of Aqaba; and establishing four search and rescue teams.
Ms. Wahlström began the day with a breakfast briefing chaired by UN Resident Coordinator Costanza Farina and attended by representatives fro UN agencies in Jordan including UNDP, UNHCR, UNICEF, OCHA, WHO, UNRWA, UNFPA, WFP, IOM, UNESCO and UNIDO.