YOGYAKARTA, October 25, 2012 – Heads of Governments and Ministers from Asian countries are calling for a global program to make schools and hospitals more safe in the event of a natural disaster.
The Yogyakarta Declaration on Disaster Risk Reduction in Asia, issued by participating countries at the 5th Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Management, urged for support towards local-level efforts to make schools safer in a cost-effective manner and a global program for safe schools and hospitals.
Early action is particularly vital in making the most of investments in ‘Safe Schools and Hospitals’. “Adopting resilience measures during planning and implementation processes is a win-win situation. The additional costs are minimal, and inaction can have dire consequences further down the road,” says Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Disaster Risk Reduction. “However, this opportunity can only materialize when decision makers have the right incentives, tools and support to take action.”
The Government of Indonesia, in partnership with the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), brought together decision makers from national governments and development organizations to share best practices in building resilient schools and hospitals, and to explore ways to scale-up and adapt successful programs to disaster-vulnerable countries.
Experience shows there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Countries need to understand the levels of risk their face, undertaking robust risk analysis in order ensure that design and constructions are in compliance with technical standards. “Action must begin today,” said Muhammad Nuh, Minister of Education and Culture, Government of Indonesia. “In order to proactively address the risks of natural hazards to protect our schools, we need to understand the exposure to risk and what cost-effective measures are available.”
In Indonesia, a government program is rehabilitating heavily damaged classrooms in some 20,000 schools. Another plan is to relocate schools to less high-risk areas.
Participants recognize that, for optimum impact, development and infrastructure planning must mainstream elements of disaster risk reduction. “To build the resilience of our education sector, we need to find ways to transfer successful initiatives. For example, countries could explore the options to invest in multi-purpose infrastructure, such as the Bangladesh multi-purpose cyclone facilities, which serve as shelters and primary schools,” says Neazuddin Miah, Secretary, Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, Government of Bangladesh.
The Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) is a biennial conference organized by rotation in different Asian countries. To date, four AMCDRRs have been hosted in the past by China (2005), India (2007), Malaysia (2008) and South Korea (2010).
In 2006, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) was established to assist countries to reduce disaster risks. GFDRR is a growing partnership of 41 countries and 8 international organizations, including the United Nations and the European Union. Annual commitments to activities made by GFDRR have grown from US $6.4 million in 2007 to US$ 46.7 million in 2012.