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Secretary-General offers condolences and UN assistance to typhoon-hit Philippines

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6 December 2012 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today voiced his sadness at the loss of life and the serious damage to homes and infrastructure in the Philippines as a result of Typhoon Bopha, and said the United Nations stood ready to assist, according to his spokesperson.

The typhoon, known locally as Typhoon Pablo, made landfall in the southern Philippines on Tuesday and is the second devastating storm to hit the island of Mindanao in a year.

With 193-kilometre-per-hour winds, the storm swept across the island, reportedly killing nearly 400 people and leaving at least as many missing. Tens of thousands of people were also reportedly from their homes by Bopha, which triggered floods and landslides.

“The Secretary-General extends his sincere condolences to the Government and people of the Philippines, particularly those who have lost family members and who have been otherwise affected by this disaster,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson added in a statement.

“The United Nations stands ready to provide humanitarian assistance and to mobilize international support for the response,” he added.

Mindanao and neighbouring areas were hit last December by Tropical Storm Washi, known locally as Sendong, which brought torrential rains that triggered flash floods and landslides. The storm claimed 1,430 lives, damaged nearly 48,000 houses and affected the livelihoods of as many as 625,000 people.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43698&Cr=philippines&Cr1=

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UN environment agency launches initiative to help Africa adapt to impacts of climate change

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6 December 2012 – The United Nations today launched a new initiative to support communities across Africa in adapting to the impacts of climate change which, if left unaddressed, could have major consequences for lives and livelihoods on the continent.

The information portal known as the Africa Adaptation Knowledge Network (AAKNet), launched by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), will serve as a hub for knowledge, research, successful initiatives and collaborative partnerships on climate change adaptation.

“It builds on ongoing efforts around the continent to mobilize existing knowledge and provide robust solutions to the major impact of climate change on lives and livelihoods in Africa,” the UN agency stated in a news release.

Disasters such as severe droughts in the Sahel in 2012 and the Horn of Africa in 2011, noted UNEP, have brought into sharp focus the serious impacts on water, land, soil and other resources linked to climate change on the continent, and the need to build resilience to such pressures.

Global warming is expected to pose serious challenges to sustainable development, particularly as most African economies depend on climate-sensitive sectors such as water, agriculture, fisheries, energy and tourism.

“Yet the region lacks the capacity and resources needed to face the challenges of climate change – a problem that could have major economic consequences,” stated UNEP.

The AAKNet aims to support climate change adaptation in Africa by providing services such as aggregating knowledge in addressing pertinent climatic risks and sharing information across regions and countries, and providing tailored support to countries in developing strategic planning processes for climate change adaptation.

It also seeks to build partnerships with governments, research bodies, non-governmental organizations and others, with the aim of supporting climate change response. To reach those directly affected by climate change, the AAKNet initiative will also conduct workshops with community organizations, farmers, and other groups, to share knowledge and practical advice.

The initiative comes as countries continue their negotiations at the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar, hoping to reach agreements on issues such as the way forward on climate finance, a response to the widening emissions gap, and an extension of the Kyoto Protocol.

Under the 1997 Protocol, whose first commitment period expires at the end of 2012, 37 States – consisting of highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing the process of transition to a market economy – have legally binding emission limitation and reduction commitments.

Today at the conference, which brings together the 195 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the parent treaty of the Kyoto Protocol, participants underlined their commitment to a range of priority actions, reviewed progress and pledged to re-double efforts to reduce short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs).

Six new countries – Chile, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Maldives, the Netherlands and the Republic of Korea – today joined an international effort aimed at fast action on reducing black carbon, methane, some hydrofluorocarbons and other SLCPs.

This brings to almost 50 the number of partners in the Climate and Clean Air Coalition – a voluntary initiative aimed at maximizing the health, agricultural and climate benefits of swift action on SLCPs.

Fast action on black carbon and methane have the potential to slow a global temperature rise by up to 0.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, reduce air pollution-related deaths by as much as 2.4 million and crop losses by around 30 million tonnes annually, UNEP said in a news release.

Scientific assessments indicate that the near-term benefits in places like the Arctic and on glaciers in mountain regions could be even higher, it added.

The Coalition, which was launched initially by six founding countries and UNEP in February this year, is already acting on several fronts. Among other actions, it is supporting an initial group of 10 major cities, including Rio de Janeiro, Lagos, Stockholm, Accra and New York, to accelerate methane reductions from landfills and black carbon or ‘soot’ from burning wastes.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43703&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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UN disaster response study highlights challenges faced by cash-strapped African towns

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5 December 2012 – Lacking both early-warning systems and risk-reduction budgets, medium-sized towns in Africa are poorly equipped to respond to emergencies provoked by natural disasters, rural-urban migration and ecosystem destruction, a United Nations report released today says.

Most local government staffers have no direct access to computers, while information management systems are non-existent, according to the report, titled “City Resilience in Africa: A Ten Essentials Pilot,” and published by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

The office unveiled the 64-page report in Dakar, Senegal, at the Africities Summit, where almost 5,000 delegates representing African governments and their development partners from around the world are examining the impact of urbanization, among other settlement issues.

“The report finds there is recognition of the value of disaster-risk reduction and the need to build resilience, but the means, knowledge and political commitment to do it are lacking,” the Director of UNISDR’s “Making Cities Resilient” Campaign, Helen Molina-Valdes, said in her address before the summit.

“Indigenous local knowledge is valuable, but it’s not enough on its own, especially given the challenge of climate change across Africa,” she added in reference to the way the phenomenon of global warming is said by many scientists to be causing a rising number of extreme weather events.

Ms. Molina-Valdes said the report’s findings – while based on assessments of three East African towns – were typical of the challenges faced by mid-sized centres throughout the continent.

The study looked at the Kenyan towns of Narok (pop. 60,000) and Kisumu (pop. 200,000), and the Tanzanian town of Moshi (pop. 150,000). The agency said they were selected because they had signed up to its urban-resilience campaign, which assessed them against the campaign’s “Ten Essentials” for achieving resilience.

“These three towns are not unique,” Ms. Molina-Valdes said. “Many cities and towns throughout Africa are struggling to meet basic urban infrastructural needs such as clean water, waste management disposal and drainage systems.”

She added that disaster risk reduction was “not integrated into urban planning in many local governments.”

Of the pilot towns, Narok suffers rampant poverty despite being a tourist town in Kenya’s Rift Valley; Kisumu is a major trade hub on the shores of Lake Victoria; and Moshi sits at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro near Tanzania’s border with Kenya, where it is susceptible to floods and drought, UNISDR said.

Indeed, floods and drought comprise the most common hazards faced by all three, according to UNISDR.

“The three local governments are not well equipped to respond to disaster events; interventions and support are limited and uncoordinated,” it said. “They are limited by funds, capacity, infrastructure and slow administrative links with regional and national authorities.”

UNISDR’s Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction in Africa, Abdou Sane, highlighted at the summit the need to mobilize political leadership.

“This remains a problem,” he said. “Strategic planning is rare at the city level, where the most vulnerable people are gathering in informal settlements, and where valuable economic assets are increasingly exposed to disaster risk.”

Mr. Sane said the report should be seen as a wake-up call for national governments to focus on how to help urban centres effectively respond to emergencies.

“This report is a very good reminder that, when we meet in these forums, we must focus on action and what works well,” he said.

“Local government leaders are on the frontline of building resilience against climate change and extreme weather events, and must be given the resources by national governments to meet the challenges.”

The summit, the sixth such event since the first in 1998, opened Tuesday, and will end Saturday.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43683&Cr=disaster+reduction&Cr1=

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