By Charles K Mark
As South Sudan commemorates International Day of Disaster Risk Reduction, government urges humanitarian agencies to collaborate with communities to help address disasters.
The United Nations General Assembly in 1989 designated October13, as the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDDRR) to promote a global culture of disaster risk reduction.
Speaking at belated celebration of the occasion, Vice President for Gender and Humanitarian Cluster, Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior, said the community need to be involved in disaster responses.
She believes the community has a wealth of valuable skills and knowledge to offer in disaster management.
Nyadeng also said working closely with local people helps them (authorities) develop the skills to handle future disasters, like rebuilding homes.
The VP stated that placing focus on the reduction of disaster risks should be coupled with climate response mechanisms.
“Increasingly unpredictable weather brings new challenges like higher crop prices and conflicts over natural resources,” she noted.
She believed that the existence of such challenges makes it harder for communities to adapt, cope, and respond to risks.
“Helping people deal with climate change will support efforts to make disasters less destructive and disruptive,” Nyandeng said.
The chair for the Gender and Humanitarian Cluster stressed the need to invest in trauma healing programs.
“Provide counseling services and raise awareness about mental health support, which are critical steps towards building more robust and resilient communities,” she noted.
Nyandeng advised the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to draw inspiration from successful examples of disaster risk reduction countries like Japan’s early warning system, robust infrastructure, community engagement, and inclusivity in disaster planning.
“We must learn from these experiences and adapt them to our unique circumstances here in South Sudan, the VP concluded.
For her part, the National Minister of Gender, Child, and Social Welfare, Ayaa Benjamin Warile, said fighting inequality for a resilient future requires gender for inclusive and effective humanitarian actions.
“Preexisting structural gender inequalities mean that disasters affect women and girls differently,” the gender minister said.
She underlined that women and girls are disproportionately impacted by disasters and threats, including climate change.
“Due to gender-specific barriers and inequality, women experience higher losses of lives and livelihoods during disasters and a longer recovery time across the board,” Warile echoed.
As people generally face the risks and impacts of disasters, Mrs. Warile thinks women and girls are more disadvantaged.
“From life expectancy to education, housing, safety, job security, and nutrition, women and girls are impacted more severely than men,” she pointed out.
Not only are women more vulnerable, but the minister said women are still likely excluded from shaping disaster risk reduction and resilient policy strategies and programs.
“Women can help identify disasters for themselves and for guys that may not be understood by male planners,” she maintained.
The gender minister reiterated that a key gender impact of disasters is women’s increased post-disaster workload.
“Women are often on the front lines of reestablishing households on relocated or reconstructed sites and collecting basic household needs such as water, firewood, food, and hygiene items,” Warille explained.
While existing gender roles can change in disaster settings, disasters disrupt commerce and markets and destroy productive resources and infrastructure.
In fact, many women become breadwinners as the male members may possibly be killed by disaster or choose to stay with the remaining property in order to safeguard the little that remains.
Madam Warile emphasized that inclusive gender responses can reduce long-term social consequences.
“Failure to apply lenses in disaster risk management and response may reinforce or perpetrate these social consequences on women and death,” she emphasized.
The overall goal of disaster management and resilience is to save lives and livelihoods.
And this can be achieved through gender-responsive, better-informed, and more effective prevention, preparedness, and recovery.