ENHANS International Workshop aims to reduce disaster risk due to extreme natural hazards in Africa

Posted on January 27, 2011

Prof Kijko is the Director of the Aon Benfield Natural Hazard Centre at the University of Pretoria and one of the organisers of the ENHANS International Workshop on Extreme Natural Hazards and Disaster Risk in Africa which took place from 17 to 20 January 2011. He emphasised that one of the main aims of this international workshop was to establish a network of African experts in natural hazards, disaster risk analysis and risk management, where the knowledge and expertise from all over the continent can be analysed and utilised to mitigate and manage the consequences of extreme natural hazards in Africa.

Dr Keith Alverson, Director of the Gobal Ocean Observing System (GOOS; http://www.ioc-goos.org/), shared these sentiments. “There is a big need for more awareness from government’s side about the possibilities of extreme natural hazards and disaster risks for the African continent. We also need to be aware what the effects of natural hazards and disasters in Africa are on other parts of the world and vice versa. Furthermore the preventative disaster measures and centres need to be monitored and the results be communicated regularly to the respective authorities. For example, if one only needed to check and maintain your house’s water pipes to ensure the water sprinklers work when there is a fire, one would not check it as regularly as when you know the water pipes ensure your daily water for drinking and hygienic purposes. The same goes for the maintenance of preventative measures and central organisations to monitor these risks.”

“A natural disaster should not be considered just as a natural phenomenon, such as a flood, volcano or tsunami, but rather as an extreme societal event, because natural hazards become disasters when and where people and infrastructure exist. There are needs for integrated research and education on natural and human-induced environmental disaster risks. As a response to the needs, a decade-long programme - Integrated Research on Disaster Risks - has been recently developed by the International Council for Science together with the International Social Sciences Council and the United Nation’s International Platform for Disaster Reduction,” tells Dr Alik Ismail-Zadeh, the Leader of the Extreme Natural Hazards and Societal Implications (ENHANS) Project and Secretary-General of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG; http://www.iugg.org). He stressed an importance of capacity building in the related fields in the African continent.  “Africa needs perhaps to set up an institution dealing with capacity building and research on natural hazards and disaster risks. It can be a network of already existing research and educational centers or new structures in the African countries coordinated by one of the network’s partners. The institution could provide lecture courses for African students and promote international collaboration on natural hazards and disaster risks in Africa.”

ICSU, IUGG and GOOS are the main co-sponsors of the Workshop. Read more on the activities of ENHANS and its partner organizations on www.enhans.org

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