By Denis McClean
You know what to expect if you live in a place called Dhemaji which translates as “playground of floods.”
Dalimiya lives there in northern Assam, India, which is hit every year by floods and the main concern of her family is how to protect their cattle and geese on which they depend for a living.
She is just one of 800 million people around the globe that live on less than $20 a day who often depend on a good local strategy for reducing the risk of losing their livelihood in a storm or a flood.
Her name came up today in an Ignite Stage presentation by World Animal Protection (WPA) on the sidelines of the Asian Ministerial Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction: “Unpacking Sendai: Animals in Disasters Initiative”.
“We have seen a great change since 2015 when animals were integrated into the Sendai Framework and recognized as a productive asset which cannot be ignored,” said Hansen Thambi Prem who works on disaster management for WPA.
The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is the global plan to reduce disaster losses and calls for strengthening the protection of livelihoods and productive assets, including livestock and working animals.
He points out that 25% of agricultural GDP comes from the livestock sector and that a policy change does not matter unless it becomes operationalized. WPA is working now with civil defense and disaster management authorities in countries like India and the Philippines to ensure that animals are taken care of during emergencies.
Mr. Prem says that a lot of poor farmers are often reluctant - or can leave it too late - to evacuate in the face of a storm or flood because of their concern at abandoning their animals whose loss can have both a devastating financial and emotional impact.
He highlights that the loss of animals is often not included in disaster loss data which makes it difficult to include protective measures in national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction which are supposed to be in place by 2020.
Daniella Hiche, WPA external relations adviser, says: “Animals are sentient beings and do depend on us when a disaster strikes and they are part of our cultural identity.”
Ms. Hiche adds that animal inclusive DRR demonstrates how far a country has advanced in its DRR strategies at national and local level.
You can learn more about their work at www.animalsindisasters.org
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