United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
With an urgent need to scale up disaster risk reduction across Afghanistan and to address humanitarian needs, UN Environment carried out a three day interactive training course in Kabul from 10-12 December 2018, to examine the challenges and opportunities for advancing ecosystem-based disaster reduction measures in humanitarian action and development planning. Organized with the support of the European Commission, UK AID and the Global Environment Facility, the workshop brought together around 25 participants from government agencies, NGOs, academia and UN organizations working on disaster and environmental management.
As it faces a massive humanitarian and environmental crises, with millions of people in need of assistance, Afghanistan is one of the top ten most vulnerable countries to disasters in the world according to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. A devastating drought affecting two-thirds of the country this year has added to the woes of a population caught in an escalating conflict. In addition, flash flooding across seven provinces affected more than 16,000 people in May 2018.
Amid these circumstances, nature-based solutions to reduce disaster risk are gathering momentum in Afghanistan. Various initiatives are springing-up to replicate and take to scale community-based ecosystem management actions to help mitigate the frequent floods, droughts and landslide hazards threatening many Afghan communities.
Welcoming training participants, the Deputy Minister of the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA), Mr. Qasim Haidari, emphasized that "ecosystem solutions should be an integral part of the toolkit to reducing disaster risks that needs to be encouraged and promoted in Afghanistan". Alluding to the imminent adoption of Afghanistan’s National Disaster Management Strategy, Mr. Haidari asserted ANDMA’s intention to host a national conference to mainstream Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco-DRR) solutions in the strategy’s implementation in early 2019. Workshop participants also called for the revival of the Eco-DRR Committee established in 2014.
Afghanistan is one of the frontline countries taking forward affordable ecosystem-based solutions to reducing disaster risk. Between 2013 and 2016, a pioneering Eco-DRR demonstration project was piloted in the Koh-e Baba mountains in Bamyan province that has generated important lessons and insights. “Community engagement and ownership is critical to ensuring sustainability of project interventions” said Dr. Aziz Mohibbi from Kabul University, coordinator of the pilot project. Implemented by the government in collaboration with UN Environment and local NGOs with financial support from the European Community, the Bamyan experience is serving as a model for promoting Eco-DRR measures at the local level.
Investments in Eco-DRR interventions are getting a substantial boost with the launch of several projects in the highly vulnerable mountain areas of the country. UN Environment announced at the workshop the start-up of a new project entitled ‘Opportunities for Mountain Area Integrated Development’, generously supported by the European Commission. Striving to support Afghanistan’s government in integrating Eco-DRR options in disaster and development policies, the project will also carry out demonstration activities that help build disaster resilience and improve livelihoods of local communities in selected watersheds in the north-eastern province of Badakhshan – one of the most disaster-prone regions in the country.
Earlier in November 2018, the Afghanistan Resilience Consortium (ARC) – an alliance comprising five non-governmental organizations, Afghanaid, ActionAid, Concern Worldwide, Save the Children, and UN Environment – was awarded a 120 million Swedish Krona (USD 12.5 million) project by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) to apply community-based Eco-DRR approaches in six provinces. “As humanitarian actors, we are really excited to start working on incorporating Eco-DRR solutions in helping build the disaster resilience of the communities we work with” said Mr. Guru Naik, Coordinator of the Afghanistan Resilience Consortium.
The application of Eco-DRR practices through these projects as well as the national conference on Eco-DRR in early 2019 are evidence of growing momentum towards upscaling this cost-effective means of addressing disaster risk and climate change across Afghanistan, ultimately contributing to achieving the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the country.
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