The aim of disastermanagement is to reduce loss of lives and properties due to hazards by reducingthe presence or effect on people and the environment, as well as organisingrelief efforts and rebuilding structures following a disaster (Sena andWoldemichael, 2006). There are four main phases of disaster management:”mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery” (Coppola, 2011). Mitigation involvesmeasures put in place to reduce the risk of being exposed to a hazard and toreduce its impact on a population (Coppola, 2011). Preparedness involvescapacity building for individuals, systems and structures to ensure safety ofindividuals and minimise the impact of a disaster in case it occurs (Coppola,2011; WHO, 2007). Response and Recovery occur after a disaster has taken place(Coppola, 2011). Response involves actions initiated following a disaster,which involve rescue and relief efforts aimed at reducing loss of lives andproperty while recovery constitutes efforts to rebuild damaged systems andreturn to a normal level of functioning following the response phase (WHO, 2007).
With prevalent poverty conditions in Central Asia countries and reducedfinancial capacity to respond to effects of disasters, it will be difficult forthe country to sustain response and recovery efforts (Gurenko and Zakout,2008). Furthermore, with Central Asia being highly prone to natural disasters suchas earthquakes and floods, Mitigation should be a priority (HFP, 2007). This isbecause mitigation strategies is more cost effective and will reduce theconsequence of hazards and protect the systems, including the health system andindividuals that will carry out preparedness measures (de Goyet et al, 2006). According to UNIDSR(2009), a hazard is “a dangerous phenomenon, substance, humanactivity or condition that may cause loss of life, injury or other healthimpacts, property damage, loss of livelihoods and services, social and economicdisruption, or environmental damage”. The process of reducing risk of disasters starts with identification ofcommon hazards a country may be exposed to (Coppola, 2011). Natural hazardscommon to all the countries in Central Asia include earthquakes, landslides,drought and floods, with earthquakes being a serious threat to the region whosegeography and climate accounts for this risk (HFP, 2007; Thurman, 2011).
Theoccurrence of a hazard, however is not sufficient for disaster occurrence,rather disasters occur as an intercept between hazards and vulnerability (Senaand Woldemichael, 2006). Conditions prevalent in the region which enhance thenegative consequences of these natural hazards, thus its vulnerability includesthe high level of poverty, large population in the urban areas, resourceconstraints such as water shortage and high concentration of economic activityin hazard prone areas (HFP, 2007; Thurman, 2011). Industrial accidents and riskof spill of radio-active materials is another major threat in the region, withincreasing risks of disease epidemics such as HIV/AIDS (Gupta, 2009; HFP, 2007;Thorne et al, 2010). In order to address theprevailing risk factors in this region, it is important to first of all, carryout a risk assessment (UNDP, 2010).
Disaster risk is a measure of theprobability of occurrence of negative effects of hazards (UNDP, 2010). A riskassessment, therefore involves a process of identifying prevalent hazards in aregion, causes and conditions such as physical, social, economic conditions thatmake the countries vulnerable to the harmful effects as well as its potentialeffect on lives and properties (UNDP, 2010). Risk assessments also helpsgovernment decision makers to formulate policies, based on identifiedpriorities and available resources (Pollner et al, 2010). Mitigation measuresneeds to focus on the conditions in the Central Asia region such as highpopulation in disaster prone areas and poor compliance with building codeswhich make the area more vulnerable to negative effects of natural hazards(Pollner et al, 2010). In addition to risks and vulnerabilities faced by theregion, decisions on strategies are also based on the more cost-effective andefficient strategies; which yield more results (Ayala-Carcedo, 2001).The localcapacity of individual countries in the region needs to be strengthened, forsustainability of risk reduction measures (World Bank, 2014). Firstly, anational mitigation plan needs to be developed for each country in the region,which takes into consideration results of risk assessments done, resourcesavailable and roles of stakeholders in prevention and response to disasters(Pollner et al, 2010). Other strategies that need to be prioritised includes;development of regulatory frameworks guiding agencies and buildings towithstand effects of natural hazards, enforcement and monitoring of compliancewith regulations, strengthening of data collection systems and informationsharing among agencies (Pollner et al, 2010).
Forecasting measures and warningsystems are also a priority (Ayala-Carcedo, 2001). For national governments toeffectively build risk management structures and systems, help is usuallyrequired from both local and international agencies (Alford, 2007). At thelocal level, stakeholders include government agencies and ministries such asministry of health, environment and water resources directly involved indisaster management, private sector, academic community, non-governmentalorganisations and representatives of local communities (UNDP, 2010). Stakeholderscan function at the national level and at a local and more operational level(UNDP, 2010). The government, though it’s appointed agency plays coordinatingrole for all the activities of the actors, as well as formulation of guidelinesand legal frameworks (Jones et al, 2014). International organisations such asthe United Nations Development Programme provide technical assistance for allstages of disaster prevention and response, while the World Bank and otherfinancial institutions support with financial aid and development of financial riskfinancing mechanisms (UNDP, 2010; World Bank, 2014).
Mitigation of risksthrough public education, requires partnership of both national andinternational agencies with the media; which is an important tool in engagingwith individuals and communities (Rattien, 1990).