The Avoidable Deaths Network (ADN) is a diverse, dynamic, inclusive and innovative global membership network dedicated to avoiding human deaths from natural hazards, naturally triggered technological hazards and human-made disasters in low- and middle-income countries.
Most deaths due to disasters are ‘avoidable’. Avoidable deaths are those, which are amenable, preventable, and both- where each death is counted only once (Cook, 2019). Amenable or treatable deaths can be avoided due to timely and effective health care interventions. Timeliness involves reducing waits and sometimes harmful delays for both those who receive and those who give care while effectiveness refers to providing services based on scientific knowledge to all who could benefit and refraining from providing services to those not likely to benefit (avoiding underuse and overuse) (NAS, 2001). Preventable deaths can be avoided through public health measures, disaster management science and weather forecasting systems, improved human-built environment – among other measures.
Both amenable and preventable deaths can be further avoided through a robust and effective disaster risk governance. Disaster risk governance is understood as ‘the system of institutions, mechanisms, policy and legal frameworks and other arrangements to guide, coordinate and oversee disaster risk reduction and related areas of policy’ (UNDRR, 2020).
Nonetheless, avoidable deaths continue to occur despite advancements in amenable, preventable and governance measures globally. However, they are most severely felt in low-and middle-income countries Coppola, 2011; DFID, 2013; Ray-Bennett, 2017a, 2017b; Roberts, 2008).
Anything less than ten deaths is considered unavoidable in many disaster scenarios. Avoidable deaths are deaths beyond the number ten and are potentially avoidable (Ray-Bennett, 2017a, 2017b). The ADN aims to promote interdisciplinary collaboration between the arts, humanities, social sciences, life sciences, natural sciences and engineering wherever possible, in order to generate empirically grounded solutions that can support government officials, UN systems and other institutions to reduce the incidence of deaths. The ADN also aims to collaborate with state and non-state actors (practitioners, primary responders, scholars, journalists, investors, etc.) with the common goal of mainstreaming avoidable deaths. This involves mainstreaming avoidable deaths into the disaster risk management cycle and in all activities related to risk avoidance and sustainable development.
The formation of the ADN is timely and is directly related to the UN’s current ambitions. In 2015, the UN’s ‘Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030’ adopted seven Global Targets, of which the first two Targets are:
(a) Substantially reduce global disaster mortality by 2030, aiming to lower average per 100,000 global mortality rate in the decade 2020-2030 compared to the period 2005-2015;
(b) Substantially reduce the number of affected people globally by 2030, aiming to lower the average global figure per 100,000 in the decade 2020 -2030 compared to the period 2005-2015.”
In 2015, the UN also revised the Millennium Development Goals, currently known as the ‘Sustainable Development Goals 2015-2030’. There are 17 Goals, of which the most relevant to the ADN are Goal 1 (No Poverty), Goal 2 (Zero Hunger), Goal 3 (Good Health and Well Being), Goal 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), Goal 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and Goal 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). More than 185 UN Member States have ratified the UN’s Sendai and the Sustainable Development Goals; hence, they are extremely important frameworks in low and middle-income countries.
Through its agenda of ‘avoidable deaths’ the ADN addresses these goals by gathering evidence to “build the knowledge of government officials at all levels, civil society, communities and volunteers, as well as the private sector, through sharing experiences, [research,] lessons learned, good practices and training and education on disaster risk reduction, including the use of existing training and education mechanisms and peer learning” (UNISDR, 2015, p. 15).