1.1 What disaster risk reduction is

Disaster risk reduction (DRR) gives us a new way to think about development programming and emergency responses, so that they:

  • achieve lasting improvements in the lives of people most vulnerable to disasters;
  • reduce the links between disasters and poverty.

Poverty and disasters reinforce each other. The poor are more vulnerable to disasters, and disasters often cause increased poverty. Looking at disaster risk reduction as a cross-cutting approach recognises that, to break this cycle, development programming must address the risks posed by disasters. Programmes must protect poor communities before and after disasters. In turn, emergency responses to disasters must take a long-term approach that tries to reduce vulnerability to future disasters. It must not simply recreate the same conditions that led to the disaster in the first place.

Disaster risk reduction covers all activities that help communities systematically “analyse and manage the causal factors of disasters, including through reduced exposure to hazards, lessened vulnerability of people and property, wise management of land and the environment, and improved preparedness for adverse events.” (UNISDR definition of DRR)

Disasters are increasing in frequency and severity. This is due to the changing climate and constantly degrading ecosystems. Changing climate patterns, deforestation, changes in land use patterns, as well as demographic developments, socio-economic changes and conflict are some of the important factors that have caused hazards  to become more frequent and intensify. They have caused new ones to emerge. They also configure and reshape the patterns and severity of vulnerability. For disaster risk reduction to work, it should be both climate-smart and ecosystem-smart in its approach. The systematic incorporation of disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and ecosystem management as an approach to reduce risks is called Integrated Risk Management (IRM).The changing vulnerabilities and hazards-together with changing, often weakening, coping mechanisms-lead to changes in the level of risk faced by poor communities. These must be addressed before, during and after disasters to stop increasing poverty and spiralling vulnerability.