Embedding COVID-19 preparedness into local disaster risk reduction
The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak is an unprecedented event in modern human history. While the World Health Organisation has declared COVID-19 a pandemic, its underlying factors, vulnerabilities and impacts go far beyond the health sector, hitting the world’s most vulnerable the hardest, including women, children and youth, older persons, migrant workers, displaced people and refugees, and persons living with disabilities, among others. It is an example of systemic risk: when a hazard leads not only to negative effects in parts of the system but also threatens the failure of the entire system.
The national approach evident in the pandemic response is not sufficient to meet the challenges that lie ahead. It is particularly important to better align prevention and response efforts of health ministries and disaster management authorities, from national to local. COVID-19 has underlined that response mechanisms require a lot of strengthening. Most countries do not have operational experience in handling a combination of natural and biological hazard preparedness planning.
Our project will provide insights on several critical problems that need to be better understood in order to improve epidemic and pandemic preparedness. COVID-19 is a biological disaster. There needs to be a better understanding on how risk works, especially how risk cascades with unexpected consequences, and how to build capacities to manage this. How can we prepare for early and better recovery that prevents the emergence of new risk with early and rapid actions from the DRR-related organisations? Our rationale is that pandemic preparedness has to be holistic and build national to local resilience that integrates public health and disaster risk management. This is core to the pandemic planning and preparedness, together with adequate risk communication, risk perception and risk-informed behaviour of communities at risk.
Integrating pandemic preparedness and disaster risk reduction to protect economic assets and people in the ‘new normal’ for the Greater Bandung Metropolitan area of Indonesia
Metropolitan areas, such as Greater Bandung in Indonesia, are a vital geographic unit for nations to sustain economic growth and development. However, they blur the boundaries between cities and peripheral regions, and make traditional city boundaries, often imposed by administrative needs, essentially obsolete. The importance of an integrated approach to development and disaster preparedness is particularly acute when they are threatened by a range of natural, technical and biological hazards, including pandemics such as COVID-19.
Greater Bandung is located in a mountainous plateau region in the central-west portion of West Java province and has the third highest population of any metropolitan area in Indonesia. It is surrounded by active volcanoes, a number of faults and complex river systems that pose significant hazards, including earthquakes, volcano eruptions, frequent floods and landslides.
In this project, researchers in the UK and Indonesia will work with actors at the National, Provincial and City levels in the Bandung Metropolitan area, and build upon the results of a previous study that won the 2019 Newton Prize for Indonesia. They will map and seek to better integrate the key actors involved in disaster risk reduction, climate change, and pandemic preparedness. They will also increase the capacity of provincial and local actors in the Greater Bandung Metropolitan area to address the threats to economic assets and people posed by disaster risk, including developing threats such as pandemics and climate change, that are creating a ‘new normal’.
The project will reduce disaster risk, including human and economic losses, increase pandemic preparedness, and create more resilient, connected communities. It will directly contribute to Indonesia’s efforts in working towards the targets set out in the 2015 global agreements on disaster risk reduction, climate change and sustainable development.
Professor Richard Haigh, University of Huddersfield, spoke to UK Research and Innovation to produce a short YouTube clip on his work on climate change and disaster risk in Indoensia. This included the current project’s work in Jakarta and Bandung.