By Berta Acero
RAMALLAH, PALESTINE, 25 February 2013 - The Government of Palestine supported by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) has taken steps to establish its first national disaster loss database. The initiative was launched in the presence of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and UNISDR Chief, Margareta Wahlström, who began a visit to Palestine this week.
The consolidation of historical disaster loss data will provide critical baseline information on disaster losses that will inform risk sensitive development planning policies and programmes and strengthen community resilience to disasters. Ms. Wahlström presided over the launch in Ramallah alongside Dr. Said Abu-Ali, Minister of Interior, whose Ministry is leading disaster risk reduction efforts in the State of Palestine.
"The Palestinian Government is taking this workshop seriously to gain expertise and knowledge which will translate into action and support all sectors", said Dr. Said Abu-Ali.
Palestine is highly vulnerable to natural hazards, mainly earthquakes, floods, landslides, droughts and desertification. The whole region frequently faces small to mid-scale disasters and is vulnerable to large-scale urban disasters, triggered by seismic activity and climate change.
This January a winter storm struck the region and caused severe damage to the agriculture and infrastructure in the Northern West Bank. About 12,000 people across 190 communities were affected by this storm.
"The recent winter storm in January 2013 is a small early warning to all sectors that Palestine can be affected by weather related events that are beyond the usual patterns," stated Dr Mohammad Abu-Ramadan, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation during his meeting with Ms. Wahlström. The January storm caused over $50 million in with severe damage to the agricultural sector.
During her visit Ms. Wahlström will also meet with Prime Minister Dr. Salam Fayad, and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Education, Health, Agriculture, Local Government, Planning as well as the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.
"It's an opportunity to pull together all the knowledge that exists here and strengthen the coordination to improve and enhance risk mitigation to be better prepared" said Ms. Wahlström.
One hundred participants representing various Palestinian governmental and non-governmental entities, International NGOs, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, IFRC and United Nations agencies are attending the disaster inventory training that will continue for three days in Ramallah.
Palestine is the ninth Arab state to start accounting for disaster losses and their impacts in a systematic manner. Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen have already established, or are in the process of completing national disaster loss databases.