Ranjan K Baruah
A disaster is a serious problem occurring over a period of time that causes widespread human, material, economic or environ- mental loss which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources. Disasters are routinely divided into either "natural disasters" caused by natural hazards or "human-instigated disasters" caused from anthropogenic hazards.
Examples of natural hazards include avalanches, flooding, cold waves and heat waves, droughts, earthquakes, cyclones, landslides, lightning, tsunamis, volcanic activity, wildfires, etc. Examples of anthropogenic hazards include criminality, civil disorder, terrorism, war, industrial hazards, engineering hazards, power outages, fire, hazards caused by transportation, and environmental hazards.
We should know that globally, over 700 million people in low-lying coastal areas and Small Island Developing States are exposed to extreme sea-level events, including tsunamis (World Health Organization, 2019). An early warning system can be effective only when the population is well aware of tsunami risk and knows what to do in case of an emergency. This means ensuring that at-risk populations have equal access to information and evacuation routes (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2022).
Inequality creates the conditions that lead people to become exposed and vulnerable to disasters, such as tsunamis. The poorest and most at-risk are disproportionately impacted, thus furthering inequality. Reducing vulnerability to disasters includes addressing poverty, exposure and vulnerability.
Like any other natural disasters, tsunamis pose a significant threat to all of us, but they are particularly dangerous for certain groups of people, such as women, children, people with disabilities, and older persons. The main objective of this year's World Tsunami Awareness Day (WTAD) which is observed on 5th November is to raise consciousness about reducing the risks created by these giant waves and improving community preparedness.
In December 2015, the United Nations General Assembly designated 5 November as WTAD, calling on countries, interna- tional bodies and civil society to raise tsunami aware- ness and share innovative approaches to risk reduction. The day was the brainchild of Japan, which due to its repeated, bitter experience has over the years built up major expertise in areas such as tsunami early warning, public action and building back better after a disaster to reduce future impacts. UN Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) facilitates the observance of WTAD in collaboration with the rest of the UN system.
Although tsunamis are infrequent, they can have devastating consequences. In the last century, only 58 tsunamis have occurred, but they have claimed over 260,000 lives. On average, each disaster has caused the death of 4,600 people, more than any other natural hazard (United Nations, 2022).
This year's WTAD theme is "Fighting Inequality for a Resilient Future," which mirrors the subject highlighted during the International Day for Disaster Reduction. The obser- vance encourages all sectors of society to engage and collaborate on disaster risk reduction. Disaster Management courses can be pursued at undergraduate, postgraduate, diploma, and certification levels.
It is not possible to fight natural disasters but our preparedness would certainly help reduce the impact. There are different career opportunities related to disaster management including tsunami. One may work with the early warning system to rehabilitation work post disasters. There are also demands of health workers to support and take care of families and individuals who suffer most from disasters like tsunamis. The best thing is that the progress of science and technology helps us to predict many disasters for which people who might be affected are relocated before the time of disasters like cyclones.
(With inputs from UN publication. The writer can be reached at bkran[email protected]
for any career related queries)