UN disaster teams reach 1,000th deployment

18 December 2009

The 16-year-old United Nations disaster response system reached its 1,000th deployment this year, with the dispatch of experts to the storm-battered Philippines.

This year had a relatively low occurrence of natural disasters, with the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) system having deployed teams to respond to 11 disasters in Africa, Asia and Central America.

Nine of these disasters were related to floods or cyclones, including the October storms in the Philippines, while two were earthquakes, one of which triggered a tsunami in Samoa.

A total of 57 people from 20 different countries took part in these UNDAC missions, managed by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), this year.

Since the system started in 1993, “UNDAC has proven to be an exceptionally professional international disaster response system, supporting governments in times of sudden-onset distress,” said Arjun Katoch, head of OCHA’s Field Coordination Support Section.

Assistance from UNDAC, he said, can reach an affected nation within 24 hours of a disaster striking.

Within hours of the 7.9 magnitude earthquake striking Indonesia in September, the first UNDAC team member departed for the site, with the entire group on the ground 13 hours later. Nearly two dozen countries and organizations comprising nearly 700 emergency responders worked around the clock to carry out search and rescue operations.

When not responding to emergencies, UNDAC promotes disaster preparedness by analyzing national systems at no cost to governments. This year, three such missions were deployed to Cambodia, Papua New Guinea and Peru.


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