National public awareness campaign launched

Georgetown, GINA, February 7, 2014

 

The Civil Defence Commission (CDC) today teamed up with the Education Ministry to launch its National Public Education and Information Campaign on Disaster Risk Management which is aimed at promoting a greater understanding in the changes evident in Guyana’s weather patterns and how these relate to the current worldwide phenomena of global warming and climate change.

The event, which was held at the Umana Yana, Kingston saw the participation of over 180 students from approximately 67 schools in Regions Three and Four.

Students of the Ascension Secondary School enacting a skit entitled “our responsibility” at the launch of the National Public Education and Information Campaign on Disaster Risk Management

Deputy Director General of the CDC, Col. Francis Abraham said that it is the young population that will be the drivers of best practices of disaster risk management as disasters hurt the poor and vulnerable the most, and unfortunately more than one-third of the world’s poor population live in multi-hazard zones.

In 2005, Guyana experienced one of the worst flood situations, which affected 25-30 percent of the population. At that time, the country was ill prepared to deal with situation.

Since then, the Government has embraced a concept of comprehensive disaster management. The central focus is to place greater emphasis on the issues of climate change to incorporate more prevention and mitigation measures and to integrate its components into the national disaster risk management structure

School children at the launch of the National Public Education and Information Campaign on Disaster Risk Management

In this regard, the country sought and obtained the approval of a non-reimbursable technical cooperation agreement from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in 2009 to facilitate the design and implementation of an integrated disaster risk management plan, within the framework of comprehensive disaster management.

Delivering the feature address, CDC’s Director General, Col. (rtd) Chabilall Ramsarup said that while, the rain cannot be stopped, “we can certainly prevent flooding or at least, minimise the risks.”

He said that two most vulnerable regions in the world with regards to natural disasters are Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. He recalled that the 2005-2006 floods affected about 463,000 people, which is more than half of the country’s population and inflicted damages estimated at about $93B (equivalent to 60 percent of Gross Domestic Product).

Importantly however, Guyana experienced heavier rainfall in subsequent years, but was fortunately able to avoid that magnitude of flooding. This is a direct result of the investments by Central Government and the administrative regions in infrastructure in terms of drainage and irrigation and sea and river defences.

Director General of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), Col. (rtd), Chabilall Ramsarup delivering the feature address at the launch of the National Public Education and Information Campaign on Disaster Risk Management

Ramsarup also spoke of a disaster risk management Bill, which is expected to give teeth to the overall national plan.

This public education campaign is intended to engage and prepare all Guyanese to take responsible actions to minimise and mitigate the adverse impacts of severe weather.

The tools that were developed for communicating the messages were fashioned to meet the information needs of the widest cross-section of Guyanese. It was done was by Communications Consultant Limited, a firm based in Kingston, Jamaican.

Consultant Eunice Bent spoke of the importance of partnerships in dealing with disaster risk management, and said that the collaboration with schools is particularly significant since children are the change agents of the world.

In developing the base materials to convey the message of disaster risks and better preparedness, the consultants sought the opinion of a wide cross-section of stakeholders. Bent said that this programme will complement all of the others that are being conducted by the CDC to better prepare the nation for disasters.

Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Education Officer from the Education Ministry, Donna Chapman said that the Ministry welcomes this collaboration since role of education, both formal and informal, must be emphasised in promoting and enabling disaster risk reduction.

She noted that in Guyana today, disaster risk management is of utmost importance and that too often citizens blame the City Council, Neighbourhood Democratic Councils and other agencies for disasters, particularly flooding.

“With the roll out of this impressive public awareness campaign, there will be a realisation that disaster risk management is everybody’s business; it is the responsibility of school-age children, teachers, parents, City Council workers, vendors, and DJs and radio personalities. It is the responsibility of all to contribute to the safety and security of our communities,” Chapman said.

Enhanced disaster risk management and mitigation will minimise the devastating impacts on human lives and livelihoods and the country’s infrastructure.

The campaign will include debates, poems and essay competitions and exhibitions.

The CDC will also be launching, in addition to its education campaign, its strategic plan for the next two years, in the near future.

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