Disasters in Americas show challenge of meeting Sendai risk reduction targets

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A man walks through rubble of collapsed buildings in downtown Port au Prince, Haiti, which was rocked by a massive earthquake, on Tuesday 12 January 2010, devastating the city and leaving thousands dead. Photo: MINUSTAH/Marco Dormino (file)

Disasters in the Americas over the past year such as Hurricane Matthew, show the challenge the world faces meeting the risk reduction targets established by the UN's Sendai Framework.

That's according to Robert Glasser, head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), addressing the opening of the Fifth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas, taking place this week in Canada.

The Sendai Framework agreed by 187 Member States in 2015, aims to reduce loss of life and injury by shifting from managing disasters, to managing disaster risk, and being better prepared.

Matthew Wells reports from the conference centre in Montreal.

A group of four indigenous elders opened proceedings with prayers and blessings for around 1,000 delegates from across the Americas.

More than 50 countries and territories are represented here, with a view to agreeing a Regional Action Plan by Thursday, on the Americas' contribution towards the Sendai targets, which follow the timetable of the overall 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr Glasser highlighted the impact of Hurricane Matthew, which made landfall in the Caribbean in early October last year, causing widespread devastation to Haiti, including 546 deaths and losses estimated at US$2.78 billion.

Sendai means saving life by making economies and societies more resilient he said.

"Disaster events as the minister pointed out in his presentation over the last 12 months in the Americas have highlighted how challenging it's going to be to achieve those targets. Hurricane Matthew last October was the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane in almost ten years and was a stern test of the region's preparedness for an event we are likely to see much more of – or similar events – in future as a result of climate change."

The UN Disaster Risk Reduction chief said it had been "heartening" to see the response in Central and South America especially to the "major slow onset disaster event" posed by the El Nino weather pattern of the past few years.

"It's efforts such as these that we must now build on as we prepare to meet the first deadline of the Sendai Framework, the substantial increase in national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020. These strategies will lay the foundations for a decade of concerted action on reducing disaster losses."

The conference is due to end on Thursday, with a Montreal Declaration that will go forward to the 2017 Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction, in Mexico, in May.

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 2’04″

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