Walker Broadbent, Mattawan High School
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP): Disaster Risk Reduction
Natural disasters are characterized by their proven ability to unleash abhorrent amounts of destruction. As their name suggests, these disasters stem from nature itself; we as humans have little choice but to accept their existence. Our sole choice is to defend ourselves. How minimally these disasters affect us depends on how well we prepare before they strike. Bolstering infrastructure, building designs, urban planning, and coordination ability—aspects of disaster risk reduction—is expensive. But, upfront costs will never be nearly as expensive as the damage these disasters can cause. Hurricane Maria, as an example, left citizens all over Puerto Rico without power for almost an entire year. This disaster perfectly illustrates the dire necessity of strong risk reduction. Without a solid support infrastructure, Puerto Rico took 11 months to restore power to all the homes across the country. Additionally, many rural areas lack any infrastructure whatsoever, making it significantly harder to support that demographic. In short, there are a lot of precautions that countries need to take to ensure the safety of its people.
Seychelles, as a small island nation, is susceptible to tropical cyclones, coastal floods, storm surge, and landslides. After the destruction caused by Felleng, a cyclone that struck us in 2013, we have initiated projects to analyze our situation. Our primary goals were to identify causes and impacts of floods and landslides, support the identification of damages and recovery needs, provide training on damage assessment, and review structures for disaster preparedness. Our experience with Felleng was a paradigm shift, as we found ourselves in a severe need of money. We had no means of coping with the $8.4 million in damages on our own due to our high percentage of poverty, despite our relatively strong economy. Also, the issue of climate change will affect our main industries of fishing and tourism. Without these, we are left without any means to support our people, so we see this as a major concern as well.
The Seychellois hope to develop a plan to improve disaster risk reduction with the other countries. We see it as necessary that struggling nations are assisted with their infrastructure so that their economy and quality of life improve, which will additionally assist their disaster relief efforts. Many of our people don’t have consistent access to basic needs already, and when disaster strikes their situation will be infinitely worse. To make matters worse, if we don’t attack climate change, Seychelles won’t have any income. We look forward to hearing other opinions on this improving disaster relief and climate change.
- Walker Broadbent