Contingencies Can Help Cut Natural Disaster Loss by 20%

The scheme’s objective is to educate 25 million households within a five-year period until March 2022 raising the preparedness index from the present 9.3% to 30%
The IRCS has one of the world’s top four largest volunteer populations.The IRCS has one of the world’s top four largest volunteer populations.

Natural disasters annually inflict losses estimated at 100 trillion rials ($2.6 billion) on the country, which can be reduced by 20% through education, information, and awareness, says head of the Education, Research and Technology Department at the Iranian Red Crescent Society.

“Natural disasters and the ensuing damages impose huge burden on the country, but the costs can certainly be reduced by as much as $530 million if people are educated, trained and prepared for such eventualities,” said Seyyed Hamid Jamaleddini.

He made the statements on the occasion of World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day (May 8) which marks the beginning of Red Crescent Week in Iran, Mehr News Agency reported.

The day is an annual celebration of the principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. It is celebrated all across the world by the national societies affiliated to the ICRC.

Noting that this year’s theme is ‘A World Waiting for Peace’, Jamaleddini said, “Peace does not only entail absence of war in IRCS lexicon, but it is the provision of assistance to fellow humankinds at all times.”

Iran is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world and at risk of a wide range of natural calamities such as earthquakes, floods and drought.

Thirteen years ago on December 26, 2003, a devastating earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale shook the cities of Bam and Baravat in Kerman Province.

As a result, 26,000 people died, 10,000 became homeless, 30,000 were disabled, and nearly 2,000 children became orphans, while almost double that number lost one parent, mother or father.

During the last decade, natural disasters have claimed the lives of 700,000 people across the country, according to Health Minister Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi.

Based on IRCS data, natural and man-made disasters cost Iran over 7% (or $28 billion) of GDP, which is about $400 billion annually. The figure indicates the extent to which the bloated bureaucracy and its army of organizations is ill-prepared and ill-equipped to deal with natural calamities.

  Preparing the Masses

To prepare families for emergency situations, a scheme has been devised whose trial run was initiated last year on the International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction (October 12) in one county in each province. It is has been implemented nationwide as of the Iranian New Year in March.  

The scheme titled ‘Khadem’ which takes its title from the Persian acronym for ‘Prepared Family in Emergencies’, is implemented by the IRCS Education Department and aimed at raising public awareness about the dangers that threaten people’s lives as well as offering education about the best responses in emergencies. The objective is to educate 25 million households within a five-year period until March 2022 raising the preparedness index from the present 9.3% to 30%.    

“Not all people can and will refer to relevant training centers, therefore we decided to take the educative scheme to people’s homes,” said Mehdi Najafi, director of fundamental public education affairs at the IRCS.

Volunteers have been trained to transfer the knowledge to families. They visit people’s homes in 12 sessions and provide brief 5-10-minute training at the doorstep following which the household will be given a registration number in the IRCS.

The broadcast media, social networks and websites have cooperated in promoting the scheme. The program was publicized at least once every day during Norouz (Iranian New Year holidays for two weeks) on state TV.

  Largest Volunteer Group

The IRCS has one of the world’s top four largest volunteer populations. It is a member on the presiding board at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent. It is also a candidate for Vice Presidency of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Asia and Pacific, the elections for which will take place in November.

The society’s air emergency has increased by 10 choppers over the past three years to 24. It has 119 hospitals, medical centers, and pharmacies across the country providing essential and rare drugs to patients with hard-to-treat diseases.

It has trained over 500 personnel in rapid emergency response systems (RERS) as part of a multilevel plan to beef up its emergency services.

“The number will increase to 3,500 this year,” Jamaleddini noted.

RERS are designed to speed the reaction time of first responders. They provide for continuous planning to minimize the risk of personal injury, death, property loss and collateral damage from critical incidents by coordinating with public bodies and agencies charged with disaster control; take necessary and prudent steps to assure continuity of operations and restoration of normal activities as quickly as possible following an emergency or a disaster.

Countries across the world that have RERS are the US, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, England, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, and Sweden.

World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day is the anniversary of the birth of Henry Dunant (1828), the founder of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the recipient of the first Nobel Peace Prize.

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