The dramatic events unfolding in Japan after a magnitude 8.9 earthquake off Japan’s east coast triggered a devastating tsunami are riveting. They also highlight the distinction between communities that participate in disaster risk reduction activities (like Japan) and those that have not been prepared (such as Haiti). No amount of preparation can stop an earthquake or tsunami, but the next few days will show how preparation and risk reduction have saved countless lives, and minimized the long term effects for the Japanese people. In other nations, this tragic event would have had much greater consequences.
We participate in risk reduction on a daily basis: when the radio identifies a forecast of rain, you assess the risk, and choose to reduce it by carrying an umbrella. On a national scale, this is much more complicated. It requires awareness, planning, and willingness to put plans in place. Today, a few low-lying communities in Washington State were evacuated due to the warnings issued by the West Coast and Alaska Warning Center, a part of the US early-warning system.
The effects of this earthquake in Japan are drastically different than the one measuring 7.0 which paralyzed Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010. In Haiti, low-quality construction practices, lack of awareness about the risk of earthquakes, and insufficient government capacity to respond created one of the worst humanitarian disasters in history. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was also a horrifying tragedy impacting unprepared communities from Indonesia to Somalia.
World Concern is currently involved in disaster risk reduction activities in risk prone areas around the world, training local communities to prepare for the next “big one.” With World Concern’s help, communities in Haiti, Sri Lanka and Myanmar are identifying risks and developing strategies to mitigate losses during disasters. Community members work together to find solutions, and educate others on how to protect themselves during a disaster.
In Haiti, for example, communities dig and maintain storm drains to counteract flooding during hurricanes. Other areas have installed emergency water facilities, in case their regular sources are contaminated by floodwaters.
After Cyclone Nargis, which killed more than 130,000 in Myanmar, World Concern supported the establishment of Disaster Management Committees in affected communities, equipping them with disaster response supplies, and assisting them in developing an early warning system, coordination with local government, and implementation of multi-hazard action plans.
World Concern partners and donors are empowering the poorest in high-risk areas to make informed decisions and be proactive in protecting their loved ones and their way of life.
Help us respond to disasters, and prepare impoverished communities for future disasters by donating at www.worldconcern.org/disasters