Disaster is everybody’s business and the general public is again being urged to learn and understand more about it, at this year’s national disaster awareness.
With the theme on ‘Build to Last’, National Disaster Management office Minister Jone Usamate made the comment in Taveuni as he launched the 2019 National disaster awareness week and encouraged community ownership and partnership.
“I would like to leave you with the message this morning that disaster is everybody’s business and I urge you all present here today to visit the booths to learn and understand more about building to last, and to relay the message to your communities and friends on the positive impacts of disaster risk reduction,” he said.
“The week’s celebrations also aims to advance the universal goal of sustainable development, disaster risk reduction and climate change and safeguard the environment and the climate for present and future generations.”
The minister added that as the custodian of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Policy, he strongly believes that if Fiji wishes to achieve sustainable development, implementing the Sendai Framework and achieving its Targets fully, will make it possible.
“And target achievement will only be possible if we all play our part well in disaster risk reduction,” he said. “Let me assure you all that Government, through the National Disaster Management Office, is committed to the people of Fiji for providing services aimed at preventing loss of lives and reduce damage to properties caused by disasters and other catastrophic events.”
Minister Usamate said as Fijians we all must integrate disaster risk reduction into investment decisions as this is the most cost-effective way to reduce risk.
“We must no longer treat disasters as a humanitarian issue but as a development one. And by investing just $1 into disaster risk reduction will save us all $7 in response,” he said.
“Our developments must be risk-informed. In the past few months, we have witnessed how continued heavy rains have contributed to landslides occurring in our parts of the community.”
Minister Usamate said such landslides have resulted in the disruption of services of critical infrastructures such as schools which also double as evacuation centres and health centres. This is what our communities in Dreketi, Wainiika and Yadua island are currently experiencing.
“I urge you, the custodians of these facilities to ensure that your rebuilding is risk-informed so that when a disaster affects your communities, the effects are substantially reduced,” he said.
“Through good governance practices, engage with technical advisors such as the Mineral Resources Department, the Department of Environment and the Ministry of Waterways and the Department of Town and Country planning, to name a few, to provide sound advice for your development plans. They will help you ‘understand the risk’.
“According to the UNDRR (United Nations Office for DRR) sustainable development cannot be attained while disasters continue to undermine economic growth and social progress.”
The awareness week launched today at Waiyevo grounds near the government station also had a range of government stakeholders and key agencies involved with disaster risk reduction, preparedness and response activities and programs.
It was also an opportunity for members of the public to visit their booths and get first hand information and advice on ways and means they could be assisted with such programmes and activities. Retired civil servant Tikonaivalu Vatili said it was a good move to bring such a program to Taveuni closer to the rural community who often at times are vulnerable when it comes to disaster preparedness and response.
“I am glad that this has happened and such services has been brought home closer to our people because it gives a feeling of what disaster work is about and how significant it is for their daily livelihood,” he said. “I am grateful to the government for their efforts in bringing this program to Taveuni.”