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More disaster risk reduction needed in the Pacific - Tearfund

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Aid and development agency, Tearfund, is reaffirming the importance of disaster-risk-reduction and preparedness as Tonga begins a long and expensive rebuild in the wake of Cyclone Gita.

Tearfund’s Education and Advocacy manager, Dr Murray Sheard, who is currently presenting at the Pacific Climate Change Conference in Wellington, says Kiwis can play their part in two ways: Firstly, by addressing climate change, and secondly, by helping our Pacific neighbours be better prepared for disasters. "The effects of climate change are being felt by our Pacific neighbours through more extreme weather events like Cyclone Gita. While no one storm event is solely caused by climate change, climate change worsens these natural events, increasing their damage. For example, there has been an increase in the rain volume in cyclones and this is predicted to continue because warmer air can hold and release more water.

It’s great that the government has committed to a zero carbon act. Kiwis can take further personal action by reducing their own emissions. For example biking, taking public transport, eating less meat, and making their next vehicle an electric one."

Dr Sheard says disaster preparedness work in the Pacific also reduces the impact natural disasters have on communities.

"The ability to build cyclone-resistant housing, grow disaster-resilient crops, and learn food preservation techniques, not only means reduced cost in recovery, but empowers Pacific Island nations to be more self-sufficient and less reliant on international aid."

Tearfund’s Pacific partner, Ola Fou, works in disaster risk reduction and youth leadership training in six countries across the Pacific, including Tonga. They were preparing homes and evacuation centres in the days leading up to the disaster and are now coordinating with other aid agencies to provide assistance to affected communities. The UN’s World Risk report lists Tonga as the second-most disaster-prone country in the world, after Vanuatu. The report takes into account the likelihood of a natural disaster as well as the preparedness of a country for dealing with one. Donations to Tearfund’s Cyclone Gita response and disaster risk reduction work can be made at tearfund.org.nz.

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