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UN agencies to help La Paz set up early warning system against disasters

UN agencies to help La Paz set up early warning system against disasters

United Nations agencies will help implement a new early warning system in the Bolivian city of La Paz, where floods and mudslides are recurring and often deadly disasters, as part of a scheme funded by the German Government.

The new measures will be unveiled in detail at a launch later this week in La Paz, the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR) said in a press release issued today.

La Paz, which is Bolivia’s largest city, lies along a narrow valley crossed by more than 200 rivers, including many that are subterranean, and also suffers from unstable geological conditions.

The city’s rapid growth in recent decades means that many residents live in flood plains or on high-slope hills, which leaves them particularly vulnerable to floods and landslides during the annual rainy season between December and March.

The most recent major floods, which took place in February 2002, are blamed for the deaths of 77 people and caused an estimated $100 million in damage to the city’s housing and other infrastructure.

Under the new project, Germany will spend about $600,000 on the first phase, which is focusing on helping about 300,000 people. Officials from the former German capital of Bonn, which has a long relationship with La Paz, will work closely with the Bolivian city’s municipal government to implement the early warning system.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN/ISDR will also help to introduce the measures as well as to build public awareness in La Paz about how to react appropriately to the early warning system.

UN/ISDR Director Sálvano Briceño said “early warning systems are only effective if people understand their purpose and know what to do when they are activated.”

Meanwhile, on Thursday the agency is also launching, a new website for increasing knowledge-sharing on disaster risk reduction issues concerning natural hazards and catastrophes.

The website, which is aimed at both the general public – including the media and schoolteachers – and specialists, will feature news reports, publications, fact sheets, examples of best practices and country reports. It will be managed by a team of seven people in Geneva, Panama City, Nairobi, Cairo, Bangkok, Kobe and Bonn.

The project’s senior coordinator Craig Duncan said: “Prevention Web is expected to become an indispensable tool for practitioners working to build the resilience of nations and communities in disasters, much like Relief Web has served the humanitarian response community in the effective delivery of emergency assistance.”