We must help countries prepare for disasters

TODAY we remember the 222,570 people who died as a result of the Haiti earthquake.

This tragedy prompted a generous response from the Irish public yet many of these deaths could have been prevented by investing in disaster preparation and mitigation.

2010 was one of the worst years on record for natural disasters. Despite the four-fold increase in disasters since the 1970s, only 4% of the estimated €7 billion of humanitarian aid spent annually is devoted to prevention strategy.

Chile was struck by an earthquake in February 2010 of magnitude-8.8, greater than that of the Haiti earthquake, yet only 521 people were killed.

Chile as a wealthier country was better prepared having invested in an early warning system, infrastructure and an emergency response capacity.

In the short term there is little that can be done to reduce the increased incidence of natural hazards. However, as illustrated, there is much which can be done to reduce their impact.

Investing in disaster preparedness and risk reduction is far less costly than dealing with the aftermath and advocates suggest that at least 10% of humanitarian aid should be dedicated to adequately preparing vulnerable communities.

It is our hope that the Irish government will invest more in disaster preparedness and that Irish NGOs will implement awareness and education programmes and build back better infrastructure, so that poor countries like Haiti will never suffer such a devastating disaster again.

Reuben Coulter

Tearfund Ireland

Dublin 1

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