Perspectives on Avoidable Deaths

Professor A Q M Mahbub’s Perspective on Avoidable Deaths

Professor Dr A Q M Mahbub is the Vice-Chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University, Bangladesh and is a distinguished expert in disaster management.

Professor Dr A Q M Mahbub’s Interview Transcript

  1. Do you believe it is possible to achieve the Sendai Framework’s first two global targets?  The first target is to substantially reduce disaster mortality by 2030, and the second target is to substantially reduce the number of affected people by 2030).

The possibility of achieving Sendai Framework’s first two global targets remains a complex question with no direct answer. Achieving these targets depends on various factors, including effective disaster risk reduction measures, modernising early warning systems, community resilience building by adapting sustainable mitigation and adaptation measures, and strengthening sub-regional and international cooperation. The Sendai Framework has brought increased global awareness on disaster preparedness programmes and risk-informed development practices which improved our ability to predict, prepare for, and quick or early respond to disasters. These advancements can potentially lead to a reduction in disaster mortality and injuries of affected people. Many countries have implied disaster risk modelling and achieved significant reductions in disaster mortality, injuries and affected people. These success stories offer valuable lessons and inspiration for other countries to follow. Moreover, coordinated efforts at local, national, sub-regional and global levels play crucial roles in implementing policies and actions to mitigate the impacts of disasters.

While progress has been made in some regions, challenges persist, including poverty, inequality, climate change, population growth in vulnerable areas, lack of effective governance and limited resources for implementing comprehensive risk reduction strategies. Additionally, reliable data on disaster mortality and affected people is often limited, making it difficult to accurately assess progress towards the targets.

The achievement of these two goals will depends on sustained global commitment, increased investment in risk reduction measures, the effectiveness of policies and actions and innovative solutions to address the complex challenges posed by disasters and climate change risks. And continuous monitoring and evaluation will help gauge progress and identify areas that need further attention.

  1. In no more than two sentences what is the most effective way to achieve the Sendai Framework’s first two targets?

The most effective way to achieve the first two targets of the Sendai Framework, which focus on reducing global disaster mortality and the number of affected people, involves robust investment in disaster risk reduction strategies, early warning systems, community resilience programs and global collaboration. Additionally, fostering a culture of risk awareness and preparedness at local, national, sub regional and international levels is crucial for achieving these targets.

  1. In your opinion which organisation should take the lead in achieving the Sendai’s first two targets?

The Sendai Framework emphasises shared responsibility among various stakeholders which promotes a multi-stakeholder approach that engages various entities necessary for achieving the Sendai’s first two targets. Usually, national governments possess the legal authority and resources necessary to implement disaster risk reduction policies and regulations. They have the responsibility of collecting and analysing data, identifying areas for improvement, mobilizing the resources for local government and reporting progress to the international community. On the other hand, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) often have the ability and expertise to work directly with communities, providing localized solutions and empowering individuals and CBOs (Community Based Organizations) to build resilience. International organizations like UNDRR (The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction) also plays a critical role in providing technical assistance, facilitating international cooperation, and monitoring global progress towards the Sendai Framework targets. So, a combination of top-down policies and bottom-up community engagement, with a focus on building resilience and reducing vulnerabilities at all levels is required for achieving the mentioned targets.

  1. Are you aware of any good practices in reducing the number of avoidable disaster deaths and affected people?

Bangladesh has implemented several good practices that have proven effective in reducing the number of avoidable disaster deaths and affected people. Here are some noteworthy examples:

  • Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP): Since its’ establishment in 1972, CPP contributed significantly in reducing cyclone fatalities in Bangladesh by providing early warning and assistance in efficient evacuation procedures.
  • Flood Forecasting and Warning System (FFWS): Developed by the Bangladesh Water Development Board, the FFWS provides real-time flood forecasts and warnings to communities. During the severe floods of 2017, the system provided timely warnings, allowing communities to evacuate to safer ground and minimize losses.
  • Community-Based Risk Reduction (CBRR): The CBBR programs are conducted to build the capacity of communities to manage disasters effectively. For example, in the coastal district of Satkhira, a CBRR program led to the construction of raised embankments around villages, which effectively protected them from floods and tidal surges.
  • Mobile phone-based early warning systems: The government has partnered with mobile phone operators to send out SMS alerts to millions of people in vulnerable areas. This technology has proved effective in reaching a large population quickly and efficiently.
  • Investment in disaster-resilient infrastructure: The government of Bangladesh has invested heavily in building disaster-resilient infrastructure, such as cyclone shelters, flood embankments, and improved drainage systems. This infrastructure plays a crucial role in protecting communities from the impacts of disasters.
  • Coastal afforestation: Bangladesh has been actively involved in mangrove plantation efforts, primarily focused on the Sundarbans, to protect coastal areas from cyclones, storm surges, and tidal waves.
  1. Why should we reduce avoidable disaster deaths and the number of people affected by disasters?

The primary and most immediate reason is the humanitarian aspect. By implementing measures to reduce avoidable deaths and limit the impact on communities, we prioritize the well-being and safety of individuals and communities. Reducing the number of people affected by disasters helps to minimize displacement and migration. Disasters can cause significant psychological trauma and distress by sudden death and displacement of family members and relatives. Alleviating disaster impacts helps to protect mental health and well-being, especially among vulnerable populations. The sustainable development and equitable future of a community are contingent on a stable economic condition. Reducing the number of people affected by disasters will help to preserve livelihoods and ensure economic stability. Minimizing the number of affected people helps to maintain social and economic stability, preventing conflicts over resources and ensuring that communities can recover more quickly. In summary, reducing avoidable disaster deaths and the number of people affected by disasters is a multifaceted effort that encompasses humanitarian, economic, social, environmental, and global security considerations.

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