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Harnessing science to avert disasters

The International Council for Science (ICSU) has embarked on a 10 year international research programme to help close the knowledge gap that exists between the application of science and averting disasters, thereby reducing risk. The decision was announced during the 29th ICSU...

The International Council for Science (ICSU) has embarked on a 10 year international research programme to help close the knowledge gap that exists between the application of science and averting disasters, thereby reducing risk. The decision was announced during the 29th ICSU General Assembly held in Maputo, Mozambique. This is the first time the organisation's General Assembly has ever met in a sub-Sahara country. The new programme, Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR), will build on existing research activities and will also address the impact of disasters of all scales from local to global. 'Integrated Research on Disaster Risk will provide an enhanced capacity around the world to address hazards and make better decisions to reduce their impacts,' said climatologist Gordon McBean, Chair of the ICSU Planning Group for Hazards. It is envisioned that the IRDR will combine experience and expertise from around the world, and provide an unprecedented opportunity for the natural and social sciences to work together as never before. 'In 10 years, as a result of this programme, we would like to see a reduction in loss of life, fewer people adversely impacted, and wiser investments and choices made by governments, the private sector and civil society,' Dr McBean continued. The IRDR will focus on all geophysical, oceanographic and climate hazards as well as events that can be triggered by weather. This even includes space weather and the possible impact on Earth by objects from space. Of special note, the programme will take into consideration the impact of human activities in creating hazards, as well as humans' capacity to exacerbate them. The countries that will benefit most from this programme will invariably be the poorest countries as they are least equipped to cope with disasters. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people are killed and millions injured by natural disasters every year. Those that survive are often displaced and their livelihoods destroyed. Scientists have observed an increase in the frequency of natural disasters over recent years. Since the beginning of this century, there have been over 470 disasters per year; this is a dramatic increase from 30 disasters per year in the 1950s. Filipe Domingos Freires Lucio, a member of the ICSU Planning Group and a former Director-General of the National Institute of Meteorology of Mozambique, spoke at length on the potential impact of disasters on communities. 'Disaster events in a region like Africa can have an enormous impact on economic activities and livelihoods. Mozambique is especially vulnerable to disasters, particularly those triggered by weather and climate. IRDR will provide knowledge that will support better decision making processes within the country, paving the way for improved disaster risk management,' he said. The ICSU, with its headquarters in Paris, France, is a non-governmental organisation whose members include both national scientific bodies (114 members) and international scientific unions (29 members).

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Mozambique

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