Appeal for attention to drought risk

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By Denis McClean

NAIROBI, 15 March, 2019 - Hunger, chronic poverty and the effects of climate change demand that we step up our efforts to reduce disaster risk and drought risk in particular.

That was the message delivered today in an official statement to the UN Environment Assembly by the UN Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori.

“I am here today to advocate for greater inclusion of good practice on food production in national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction. Time is of the essence as these strategies must be in place by next year if we are to fully implement the global plan to reduce disaster losses, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction,” she said.

Recalling that there has been a doubling of extreme weather events over the last 20 years, she said “these events affect the well-being of many of the 2.5 billion small-scale farmers who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. The agriculture sector absorbs 25 percent of the recorded damage and losses caused by climate-related hazards in developing countries. And drought causes 80% of this damage.”

Ms. Mizutori started the day by giving a lecture to students at the University of Nairobi, where she highlighted the high levels of exposure to drought and the high levels of socio-economic vulnerability across the continent.

“If we don’t win the race against climate change we are not going to be successful in reducing disaster losses,” she added.

She repeated a point she made yesterday in a Leadership Dialogue at the UN Environment Assembly that science and research can help us to move forward but there was a need for more scientists from hazard exposed regions like Africa.

Ms. Mizutori said: “It has to be your research that counts in developing innovative solutions to disaster risk on your continent. You cannot rely on imported solutions. Think about disaster risk reduction as a career.”

In her final public speaking engagement on the closing day of the Assembly, she said that the numbers of people being displaced by disasters was “staggering” at 19 million in 2017 compared to 12 million for conflict.

Ms. Mizutori was speaking on a high level panel on the correlation between migration and environment convened by the government of Morocco which also hosted the signing of the Global Compact on Migration.

The problem of chronic displacement fueled by poverty and extreme weather events was only likely to become more acute if greater action was not taken on climate change including adaptation, she said.

She encouraged the audience to make use of the solutions to be found in the new Words into Action guide, "Disaster Displacement: How to reduce risk, address impacts and strengthe resilience," produced by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction in a collaboration led by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and funded by the Government of Germany, in support of efforts by the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD).

The guide is pitched to ensure that future disaster risk reduction strategies include disaster displacement risk.