Noting that Africa is the only continent whose share of reported disasters in the world total has increased over the past decade, government ministers from 40 countries are set to agree on ways to implement a new continental disaster reduction strategy that will also help to eradicate poverty.
The policy makers at the first African Union (AU) Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction meet at the AU Commission Conference Centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from today until Wednesday, while some 20 million people are recovering from such disasters as the Karthala Volcano eruption in Comoros, drought in Southern Africa and Niger and locust invasions from West Africa across the Sahelian region.
"The timing is also significant as we approach the anniversary of the 26 December Indian Ocean Tsunami that affected several African countries," the director of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (ISDR) Secretariat, Sálvano Briceño, said.
The Africa Regional Strategy on Disaster Risk Reduction, drafted in response to a request from African leaders in July of last year, is designed to increase political commitment to and public awareness of disaster risk reduction and enhance continental knowledge of reduction methods, the ISDR Secretariat said.
The strategy will improve the identification and assessment of risks, improve the governance of disaster risk reduction institutions and integrate reduction methods into emergency responses, it added.
Building on the existing national disaster risk reduction policies and institutional mechanisms, the AU and its New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) hope to promote a strategic continental change through "a transformation of the basic mindset and practices of national authorities," the ISDR Secretariat said.
Disasters caused by vulnerability to such natural hazards as floods, droughts, earthquakes, volcanoes and tropical storms are increasingly becoming an impediment to sustainable development in Africa, it said. If the programme is given the right support, however, it could reverse the trend.
"Africa is leading the way on disaster risk reduction and on implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action, which was adopted by 168 countries in Kobe, Japan, earlier this year," Mr. Briceño said.