On International Day for Disaster Reduction, the United Nations stresses the importance of local stakeholder engagement in building resilient, sustainable communities. Recent mining accidents in Donetsk, flash floods in the Carpathian Mountains, and industrial pollution in Kalush demonstrate the need for increased investment in disaster preparedness in Ukraine. On International Day for Disaster Reduction, the United Nations stresses the importance of local stakeholder engagement in building resilient, sustainable communities. Recent mining accidents in Donetsk, flash floods in the Carpathian Mountains, and industrial pollution in Kalush demonstrate the need for increased investment in disaster preparedness in Ukraine.

Kyiv, Ukraine, 13 October 2011 – The United Nations calls on local governments and communities to increase their commitment to disaster prevention and preparedness on International Day for Disaster Reduction.

Observed annually on 13 October, the International Day for Disaster Reduction is an opportunity to raise awareness about how to make communities safer from disasters. This year’s theme is to engage children and young people in disaster risk reduction (DRR) efforts.

Since 1991, Ukraine has experienced at least 69 disasters, which have affected over 2.7 million people and caused over $2.5 billion in economic losses, according to EM-DAT, an international disaster database. Furthermore, the Ministry of Emergencies of Ukraine reports that mining accidents between January and July 2011 alone have led to over 100 casualties—an average of one casualty every two or three days.

The most prominent disasters in Ukraine are related to industrial pollution and flash floods. Last year, the Government of Ukraine declared an ecological emergency in Kalush, where obsolete mining facilities and toxic stockpiles of hexachlorobenzene (HCB) threatened to contaminate local soil and water sources. In July 2008, floods in the Carpathian Mountains affected over 224,000 people and caused around $650-870 million in losses.

“We need to shift our mindset from just responding to disasters to preventing disasters,” said Ricarda Rieger, Country Director of UNDP. She added, “The impact of disasters can be minimized—even prevented—if local governments, communities, and other relevant stakeholders work together to identify the risks and implement mitigation measures.”

In 2009, UNDP and Ministry of Emergencies of Ukraine signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on disaster risk reduction efforts. Among the activities to spur from that agreement include engaging communities and governments in disaster planning activities at the local level. For example, the United Nations is promoting a campaign called “Making Cities Resilient,” which encourages cities to implement a checklist of 10 practical actions to reduce disaster risk. The checklist includes activities such as preparing risk assessments and protecting natural buffers that mitigate floods and storm surges.

While there is much work to be done, the International Day for Disaster Reduction is a chance to raise awareness and mobilize communities toward building more resilient communities.

To sign up for UNISDR’s “Making Cities Resilient” campaign, click: http://www.unisdr.org/english/campaigns/campaign2010-2011/.

To learn more about the 2011 International Day for Disaster Reduction, click: http://www.unisdr.org/2011/iddr/.