If you are a parent in Armenia, what worries you more: getting a better education for your kids or ensuring their safety in school? For countries like Armenia – prone to disasters such as earthquakes, and with vulnerable housing and school building stock – this is not a rhetorical question! It’s a problem that parents seriously worry about and governments grapple with.
Armenia has always been vulnerable to earthquakes. The devastating Spitak tremor in 1988
took 25,000 lives, injured another 19,000 people, damaged half a million homes, and caused a US$15-20 billion loss to the country’s economy. More than two-thirds of that tragic human toll in 1988 was children – with most school-age children sitting in class when the quake struck.
While it is true that disasters generally occur unannounced, risks can nevertheless be managed in order to reduce the loss of lives, homes, infrastructure, and economic activity. But, governments have difficult choices to make: should they spend scarce investment resources on preparing for disasters, forgoing other top priorities, or should they hope for the best and deal with the consequences after disaster strikes?
In Armenia, we are now seeing a stronger recognition that natural hazards threaten the country’s development, and a shift to prioritizing disaster risk management. This move toward proactive disaster risk reduction has seen a wide range of stakeholders – communities, government agencies, donors – mobilize together. Disaster preparedness and risk management requires capacity, finance, knowledge, information and cooperation, and no government can succeed alone; it takes a strong partnership.