También disponible en español
Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods or droughts are the same worldwide. Whether in Mexico, Colombia, Haiti or Pakistan, these are natural events or "disasters" of varying intensity.
What changes are the effects and consequences. Water and land become the mortal enemies of populations who pay the highest price with their lives and property.
It was gratifying this morning to sit in a room filled with disaster risk reduction and management experts from around the world to open the 2012 Understanding Risk Forum. The Forum focuses on how countries and their development partners can work together to protect people and communities against the impacts of climate-related natural disasters.
In Sub Saharan Africa, these disasters range from floods caused by cyclones and rising sea levels in coastal countries like Mozambique and Madagascar, to droughts caused by too little rainfall in places like Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso and Niger in the Sahel and Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan in the Horn. As the World Bank's Jonathan Kamkwalala said, many disasters are hydro-meteorological in nature, meaning too little water resulting in droughts or too much water resulting in floods. Volcanoes also are a concern in Africa, although many wouldn't know it. The Democratic Republic of Congo's Mount Nyiragongo is an active volcano, one that could erupt in the very near future.
Mid-morning in the little village of Om Albadry in Sudan’s North Kordofan state, and it is market day. But a curiously dull market, eerily silent but for the occasional sounds of livestock. In a few minutes, I realize why. All the village children are safely in school, and that accounts for the peace. In other Sudanese villages that we typically visited late in the afternoon, the first sounds of greeting were always whoops and cries from a horde of excited little boys, while the girls hung back, shy of strangers.
We carry on for half a mile past the market, passing large camel pens, in search of the school. We find a collection of small shacks that houses the older boys and girls, while preschoolers sit in a dusty group under a shade tree. The preschool teacher is seated on a plastic chair, and the children are repeating their lesson after her. It is a while before I notice the teacher is nursing a baby, even as she recites to her pupils. When the lesson ends, some of the girls begin to skip, using ropes that the teacher fishes out of her bag. The others play listlessly in the soft, warm sand, some lying down in it and falling asleep. None leave the shade of the tree, not even the little skippers.