Raising awareness of natural disasters

A series of activities to raise public awareness on natural disasters, disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness are under way in Tajikistan on 10 October to mark the International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction.

“The main goal of all these activities is to draw public attention to the issue of natural disasters so that people are aware of them, prepared for them if they take place and able to minimise the risks and implications,” Abdurakhim Muhidov, a project coordinator for the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) in Tajikistan, told IRIN from the Tajik capital, Dushanbe.

As part of the activities planned, a local private radio station, Radio Vatan, is airing news and information on the issue and conducting an on-air contest for the residents of Dushanbe, Muhidov said.

Some 2,800 free brochures are to be distributed with the Aladdin newspaper for children in Dushanbe and northern Tajikistan. Schoolchildren are engaged through crosswords, cryptograms and anagrams reflecting the theme of disasters. “We aim to get our message out to children through interactive games,” Muhidov said.

A documentary film on disasters entitled Everybody’s Business is also being aired on regional NOW TV operating out of Kazakhstan and airing programmes in five Central Asian languages, the ISDR official added.

An essay competition on natural disasters, and training seminars by ISDR staff members at four universities in Dushanbe, are among other planned activities.

“We don’t expect immediate results from all this and we don’t want people to start panicking about disasters. What we want is that they [people] are aware of them… and are prepared for them through the information and messages we are trying to get across,” Muhidov said.

Financial support from ECHO

ISDR is conducting the campaign with the financial support of the European Commission’s Humanitarian aid department (ECHO) and in cooperation with the Centre of Competence for Disaster Reduction (CCDR - assisted by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation), the Disaster Risk Management Programme of the UN Development Programme, Tajikistan Red Crescent, the Netherlands’ Red Cross and CARE Tajikistan.

The events in Dushanbe coincide with the launch of a new publication by ISDR on how children can be better educated to face disasters, the culmination of a two-year education campaign by ISDR.

The publication, entitled Towards a Culture of Prevention: Disaster Risk Reduction Begins at School, gives 35 examples of how to make children safer in their classrooms and educate them about disasters. (www.unisdr.org)

Tajikistan is prone to various natural disasters, including landslides, avalanches, floods and earthquakes. According to the World Bank, each year the country experiences about 50,000 landslides, 5,000 tremors and earthquakes, and hundreds of avalanches and debris flows.

Landlocked Tajikistan “has all the natural disasters except for tsunamis and volcanoes”, Goulsara Poulatova, senior adviser for ISDR Central Asia, told IRIN.

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