The 13th of October marks the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDDRR) as designated by the United Nations General Assembly. The DRR community around the world celebrate this day to promote disaster awareness and a culture of disaster preparedness to reduce disaster risk. This includes the Avoidable Deaths Network (ADN).
On this day, we are celebrating by organising a Special Session to gain expert knowledge from Professor Michael Petterson (ADN’s Advisor based at Auckland University of Technology) and Mr Sheikh Khairul Rahman (German Red Cross), on the value of saving lives and livelihoods through effective early warning and early actions in the low-and middle-income countries.
The theme of IDDRR 2022 is “early warning and early action for all”, which is Target G of the Sendai Framework: “substantially increase the availability of and access to multi‑hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments to the people by 2030”.
Early warning is an essential part of saving lives and reducing the economic and material impact of hazardous events, including disasters. Early warnings and early alerts are essential for activating disaster response systems. For instance, prior to the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004, there was no early warning system (EWS) in place to monitor the Indian Ocean water surface. As such, there was no core information for the disaster responders to rely on. The consequence of this was a death toll of more than 225,000 people. In the words of Kofi Annan in 2006, we explain:
“If an early warning system had been in place when the tsunamis of 26 December 2004 struck the Indian Ocean region, many thousands of lives could have been saved. That catastrophe was a wake-up call for governments and many others about the role early warning can play in avoiding and reducing the human and physical impacts of natural hazards” (UNISDR, 2009: p.62).
EWSs are socio-technical systems because they work at the interface of social and technical. They are technical because they consist of detecting, monitoring and forecasting technologies, and are disseminated in turn with targeted communication channels including, TV, radio, printed media, web applications, social media, mobile phone apps and word of mouth (World Meteorological Organization, 2020). However, the analysis of the forecasting, collaboration and cooperation with different actors and uptake of the disseminated information is influenced by social and cultural elements of society. As such, it is important that early warnings are ‘people-centred’, and culturally and socially sensitive to meet the need of the ‘last mile’ or the most vulnerable section of the population who need assistance.
The ADN is a global network of researchers, policymakers, students, and practitioners dedicated to reducing disaster deaths and the number of people affected by disasters in developing countries. The ADN's philosophy is rooted in the praxis of understanding global and local challenges leading to direct deaths and avoidable deaths during and in the aftermath of disasters. We have been deciphering this praxis whilst working closely with governmental and non-governmental partners and critical support organisations in India, Bangladesh, Japan and the Caribbean region. Most importantly, we are dedicated to and focusing on reducing avoidable women and adolescent girls’ deaths and morbidities from post-abortion complications during disasters and humanitarian crises, reducing avoidable deaths from nutritional crises, snakebites, drowning, or from the want of education and preparedness – among other things.
Through our public engagement Special Session webinars, research and networking activities, we have learned that both direct and indirect disaster deaths are avoidable and unavoidable. They are avoidable when there is collaboration, cooperation, coordination, and communication between actors and actants in implementing public health measures, amenable or timely intervention measures, and effective measures for governance. Most importantly, they are also avoidable when there are effective early warning systems in place.
To raise awareness of avoidable deaths and appeal for their avoidance, the ADN will be launching a global campaign by announcing the 12th of March as the International Awareness Day for Avoidable Deaths (IADAD). We will be launching this campaign at Kansai University in Osaka in Japan. The details of this launch event will be released in January 2023.
We hope you will join us to launch the IADAD.
Dr Nibedita Ray-Bennett and Dr Hideyuki Shiroshita
Founding Presidents of ADN