The Middle East Ramps Up for Disaster

Disaster preparedness in several Middle East countries has lagged over the years. According to a 2010 report, the region has suffered 276 disasters in the past 25 years, in which 100,000 people died and 1.5 million were left homeless.

But now these countries have created national databases to help estimate their level of risk, which would improve disaster preparedness and response, according to a recent www.irinnews.org article.

“The region is affected by several hazards: earthquakes, floods, landslides and drought. However, disaster risk reduction has not been a priority for governments until recently,” said Luna Abu-Swaireh, regional program officer at the Cairo office of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), as quoted in the article. “The commitment is relatively new [and] we have witnessed various progress levels in nations in the region, but overall it is still lower than global levels.”

Progress has also taken place in policy development. “For the first time, this region has a strategy for 2011–2020 that outlines a commitment to reducing risk and vulnerability for the Arab countries and populations by working on multi-hazard approaches, risk assessment, identification and enhancing capacity,” Swaireh told IRIN.

Syria, Yemen and Jordan recently developed national disaster loss databases that can be used to analyze risks based on country-level data, including illustrations, case studies, and background on risk drivers. Egypt, Morocco, Djibouti and Lebanon plan to also join in on the database system.

“The impact of disasters on the economics of the Arab countries coupled with the problems they are already facing in terms of poverty, etc., makes it a challenge to engage in disaster risk,” Abu-Swaireh said via IRIN. “You need to work today on disaster reduction, to make sure your system does not collapse in the face of a disaster.”

For more information about how the Middle East is preparing for potential future disasters, visit: http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportID=92812