International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction 2020: Director General’s Statement

Today the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) joins the rest of the world in observing the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDDRR). This year’s focus is on Disaster Risk Governance and is based on the fifth target of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030: “Substantially increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020.”

CDC Director-General, Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig

The occurrence of disasters and their impacts have retarded countries’ development by a substantial number of years. Data presented in the 2019 Global Natural Disaster Assessment Report showed that in the thirty (30) year period between 1989 to 2019, a cumulative total of 9,921 major disasters caused by natural hazards occurred worldwide, an average of about 320 per year. Further, since 1989, there has been a fluctuating trend of increasing direct economic losses due to major disasters, and since 2010, direct economic losses due to disasters have exceeded $100 billion in all years except 2015 and 2018.

This year, apart from the “traditional” disasters and their corresponding impacts of death, disruption and damages, the world is also currently battling a health crisis described by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori as “the worst single disaster of the 21st century so far,” the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In excess of 36,000,000 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded globally in more than 214 countries and more than 1,000,000 persons have died from the virus and case numbers continue to increase daily.

Experts have posited that when the world brings the COVID-19 disaster under control, “We can never go back to business as usual.” To say the least, the current pandemic has reiterated the importance of Disaster Risk Management mechanisms and has highlighted the fundamental role of Disaster Risk Governance in Guyana and across the world in ensuring the safety of our population. This year’s theme is fitting, because it reminds us at an opportune time that appropriate institutional, policy and legal frameworks for Disaster Risk Management within a country are not only essential, but are paramount to provide the required systems to elevate Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) into a policy priority. This will in term allow for the allocation of the necessary resources for DRR, ensure and enforce its implementation and assign accountability for successes and failures, as well as facilitate participation by all relevant stakeholders.

Locally, we have not only recognised the intrinsic role of Disaster Risk Governance but have already made notable strides towards creating this critical framework. Significantly, the CDC, in 2019, completed the draft of the National Disaster Risk Management Bill and has initiated the process for its submission to Parliament for review, approval and passage. Once legislated, the DRM Bill will serve as the main instrument nationally to guide protection of the Guyanese people, infrastructure and economic and social assets from disasters and hazard impacts. Moreover, the intended passage of the DRM Bill signifies the country’s commitment to the underpinning of good Disaster Risk Management Governance, and the intent, at the highest levels, to ensure that there is a conducive environment within our country for effective disaster risk reduction and sustainable development. As we join today to celebrate how people and communities around the world are reducing their exposure to disasters and raising awareness about the importance of decreasing the risks faced, I charge all citizens to remember that everyone has a role to play in Disaster Risk Management. Good Disaster Risk Governance provides the environment where the voices of all, including the most vulnerable are heard in the decision-making processes; I urge that we as citizens capitalise on the environment provided and use our voices and actions collaboratively to build a safer, resilient and sustainable Guyana for ourselves and each other.  I thank you.

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Coronavirus disease spreads primarily through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze. It also spreads when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth. We urge citizens to practice good hygiene and social or physical distancing also adhere to the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health, Guyana.