Natural disasters claim 37,000 lives in 34 yearsSeptember 13, 2012, 12:00 pm
The economic cost of natural disasters over the past 10 years has been estimated at Rs. 257 bn or $ 1.95 bn, while the number of lives lost due to natural disasters in the past 34 years is estimated at 37,000.
As recently as November 2010, heavy monsoon rains triggered devastating floods in some parts of the country, affecting about 1.2 million people (319,451 families). Thousands of families lost their livelihood. Some 30,000 houses were partially damaged or destroyed and 300,000 hectares of paddy land were ruined, according to a statement issued by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
"In an effort to mitigate the effects of disasters, the Survey Department of Sri Lanka and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) signed a historic agreement for Digital Data Dissemination on Thursday. The agreement, the first of its kind between the government and the United Nations, allows organisations to freely use government geographic data for disaster management purposes.
"Numerous challenges arise for our national authorities and partners when responding to a major disaster: recording the damage to housing, infrastructure, and services; tracking displaced people; distributing food and water; and Coordinating the work of humanitarian organisations. Ensuring these organisations all use the same geographic data is essential if the information is to be shared quickly with the Government, as well as other humanitarian partners."
The UN quoted Mahesh Fernando, the Surveyor General as having said that the agreement "will assist in addressing information gaps in disaster management by improving how disaster related information is analysed, as well as facilitating better decision making". Both the government and UNOCHA underscored the pivotal role that common data standards made towards making disaster preparedness and response activities more efficient and effective.
Brendan McDonald, Head of UNOCHA Sri Lanka was also quoted as having said that the agreement was "a practical example of the government’s commitment to the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action" which was adopted by the government in 2005 at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Japan. He also said that the agreement reflected how the government and the United Nations worked together to build sustainable partnerships to reduce the impact of disasters on people’s lives, as well as the Sri Lankan economy and environment.
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