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FEATURE STORY

Ecuador: United against disasters in Latin America

June 10, 2014

This house in Mexico, which resembles many in Latin America, demonstrates why the region wants to work together to reduce disaster risks.

Delegates from several countries in the region met in Guayaquil to prepare a proposal for the Global Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction 2015.

January 8, 2009 changed Ana Cambronero’s life forever. That day, an earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale shook her town, Cinchona, in central Costa Rica, killing her husband and children.

Despite her suffering, Ana decided to look ahead and to work with her neighbors to rebuild their lives in safer locations under better conditions. Thanks to their joint efforts, an opportunity for recovery came out of the tragedy.

Today there is a new, much safer Cinchona. The experience of Ana and of Cinchona reflects both the losses that natural disasters can cause and the opportunities they provide in risk management.

With this objective in mind, delegates of several countries of the region met in Guayaquil at the fourth session of the Regional Platform (May 27-29) to demonstrate how a group of organizations can implement resilience projects to help reduce disaster risks in their countries.

The meeting resulted in the Guayaquil Declaration on Disaster Risks, a document that will contribute to the development of the new Global Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which will replace the current Hyogo Framework for Action (2005-2015). The new framework will be adopted at the third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, to be held in Sendai, Japan on March 14-18, 2015.

Many natural phenomena, a single objective

Cony Silva, coordinator of the Partnership for Resilience in Nicaragua, said that the Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas is an opportunity to promote and highlight their work and to share experiences with other countries in an effort to engage in regional advocacy.

The disasters that Hurricane Mitch (1998) left behind in Nicaragua are still fresh in the minds of the country’s inhabitants. While Nicaragua was not directly hit like Honduras was, the powerful storm affected more than 2 million Nicaraguans. Recently, several tremors have alerted authorities to the possibility of an earthquake of major magnitude and impact.

 “A key objective for the region is to reduce economic losses caused by disasters, which have intensified in recent years. An important aspect of this week will be to learn from the shared experiences in the application of the Hyogo Framework for Action,” said Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). 

During the Platform session, important advances in legislative frameworks, institutions and good practices were recognized. These included the definition of risk management as a government policy in Ecuador, the new laws for comprehensive risk management of Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Peru, and several local and community efforts.

Indu Jhon Abraham, World Bank representative in Ecuador.

Open Quotes

There have been some very successful experiences. One example is Panama, which is finalizing a financial strategy for risk protection, which could serve as a model for the region. In Caribbean countries, a platform was developed for using geo-space information to make risk management investments. In Colombia, the condition of all schools in Bogota was analyzed and a safe-school program was established to make more strategic investments. Close Quotes

Armando Guzman
World Bank Senior Specialist in Risk Management

The World Bank and Disaster Risk Reduction 

Bishwa Raj Pandey, a World Bank senior specialist in information management, shared the experience of several Caribbean countries, which have helped to build tools and applications for effective decision-making in disaster risk management.

Bishwa stressed the need to work on information platforms that would provide data on where best to invest and build more resilient infrastructure. An example of this cooperation is Dominica, where the digitalization and localization of hurricane shelters was supported.

Today, officials of that Caribbean island know which locations are safest in accordance with the location of the most vulnerable population. They also know what hurricane magnitude those locations can withstand.

In addition, Armando Guzmán, a World Bank senior specialist in risk management, discussed some of the initiatives underway in the region.

There have been some very successful experiences. One example is Panama, which is finalizing a financial strategy for risk protection, which could serve as a model for the region. In Caribbean countries, a platform was developed for using geo-space information to make risk management investments. In Colombia, the condition of all schools in Bogota was analyzed and a safe-school program was established to make more strategic investments.

Indu Jhon Abraham, the World Bank representative in Ecuador, spoke about risk management as a development opportunity: “Beforehand, safety or protection networks can be established for the most vulnerable populations, with insurance, for example. After a disaster, countries can take advantage to build more resilient structures to reduce possibilities of future damage.”

She added that “the reduction and eradication of poverty – which we hope to achieve in a few years – will be the most effective measures for risk management and development promotion in the world, the region and Ecuador.”