UN Economic and Social Council focuses on helping foster recovery after disasters

14 July 2006

Rebuilding after a major natural disaster such as the Asian tsunami and the Pakistan earthquake must start quickly and must be sustained, according recovery experts told the United Nations Economic and Social Council meeting in Geneva today.

In reviewing post-disaster reconstruction efforts, the Council heard that significant changes in natural weather patterns presented increased risks to populations. “The consequence of these changes could be enormous,” James Morris, UN World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director said.

The daunting effort of rebuilding after a disaster, the experts said, means that recovery operations have to be up and running well before relief efforts have ended.

In tsunami-devastated Aceh, Eric Morris, the UN Recovery Coordinator said that nine months after the tsunami, there were 50,000-300,000 people still living in tents, an “unacceptable” situation.

Although conditions are now improving, he said that destroyed roads, a lack of adequate management and tenuous coordination due to conflict hampered the recovery effort, highlighting the need to better manage the transition to recovery operations. “Recovery and reconstruction efforts needed concerted efforts of the UN agencies and that of the Government,” he said.

Part of the problem, said Nadeem Ahmed, Vice-Chairman of Pakistan’s Earthquake and Rehabilitation Authority, was that the mind-set of the 3 million people affected by the last year’s earthquake needed to be changed, and that people should not expect aid distribution to go on indefinitely. “The recovery and reconstruction should be replaced by a sustainable development strategy,” he said.

In Guatemala, which is rebuilding after Tropical Storm Stan devastated large parts of the country, local participation helped the government develop plans to meet people’s needs, according to Eduardo Aguirre, Manager of the Vice-Presidency and Coordinator of the National Reconstruction Programme. The national reconstruction plan, which relied on social integration and economic reactivation, achieved very positive results.

Kathleen Cravero, Director of the UNDP Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, said there was no better time to pay attention to risk reduction than during the recovery process. But there was often resistance to reducing the risks from future disasters, she said, because of the need for speed in recovery.


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