Nicaragua and Guatemala, battling the onslaught
of hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters for decades, are partnering
with UNDP to respond to such crises. The aim is to pick up where humanitarian
relief leaves off, by putting in place early recovery initiatives to mitigate
the worst impact, and enhance preparedness in the rebuilding process.
UNDP has been working with six municipalities in northern Nicaragua to support risk management. This project helps communities reduce disaster risks by incorporating risk management training and supporting the linkages between national institutions and the local level.
According to Angeles Arenas, Regional Disaster Reduction Advisor in the UNDP Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR) Disaster Reduction Unit, UNDP support includes facilitating workshops and field visits, enabling communication between project staff and local and national institutions and enabling partnerships with other institutions and NGOs.
Funded by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), the project was an initiative under the framework of SINAPRED (National System for Disaster Prevention, Mitigation and Attention), completed successfully in November 2002. BCPR has so far contributed US$101,805 to this project and US$20,000 supporting a similar programme in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN) of Nicaragua, and US$140,000 to Guatemala.
After tropical storm "Michelle" severely damaged homes and livelihoods throughout the Caribbean and Central America, the regional governments in Nicaragua and the International Forum of Donors with the Atlantic Coast (FICCA) asked UNDP to coordinate with other UN agencies, national authorities and donors in assessing damages and needs, and managing the emergency and transition to recovery through FICCA.
UNDP implemented a capacity building project and by March 2003, only five months later, trained 86 local authorities and community members in disaster risk management, enabling better communication between the local authorities and SINAPRED at the national level.
"One of the biggest lessons we have learned," said the Vice Mayor of Ocotal, one of the six municipalities covered by the project, "is that we cannot elude the incorporation of Local Risk Management in our plans, at a concept level and in the budget.
"We need an integrated approach for the Municipality and this UNDP/SINAPRED project focused on risk management is giving us a new perspective and the tools to reduce the risks for our people."
In Guatemala, where the 1996 signing of the peace accords ended 36 years of civil war, natural disasters continue to be a challenge. The UNDP project on an early flood warning system in the valleys of Madre Vieja River, implemented by CONRED (National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction), is helping to reduce risks and thus sustain human development among the highly vulnerable communities.
An early warning system there, based on climate and weather forecast monitoring, benefits more than 42,000 people in 21 communities and two municipalities.