For many people living in the capital or cities less vulnerable to natural disasters, days such as International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR) doesn’t prompt their mind but a small celebration by the government and for the masses that comes as two minutes TV news only. For me it had the same value till I was asked to go to Mazar and cover the celebration of the IDDR on 10th October.
This day which was recognized by UN general assembly in 1989 and is a day to celebrate how people and communities are reducing risk disaster and raising awareness about the importance of DRR, is every year celebrated in Afghanistan too.
But for me it was the first time I was attending this event. As I entered the hall, was faced with huge crowd from different International organization, and government officials, all together preparing for the program. It was organized by Afghanistan Natural Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA), with collaboration of international NGOs working for disaster reduction including ActionAid. The program started with signing on the signature campaign board to announce their commitment to work for this cause.
ActionAid was also one among the organizations which announced Its commitment by signing the signature campaign. But the actual commitment of ActionAid was made by starting a project in March 2013 named as “Amu River Early Warning System” in northern Afghanistan, which is funded by European Commission Directorate- General Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection under Its DIPECHO Seventh Action Plan for South Asia. The main of objective of this project is to contribute to national risk reduction mechanism in Afghanistan by piloting a community based river basin early warning system and the journey of ActionAid to achieve this aim will last for 18 months.
In the initial six months of this journey ActionAid has done some constrictive work and has made a strong base for further improvement. It has signed memorandum of understanding with ANDMA to involve them in the project, conducted training for the project team, signed partnership with PracticalAction Nepal which recently one of Its engineers arrived to Kabul for their further work to reduce Amu river risk and conducted training for the people. Muhammad Nasir one of the participants in this event, from Kaldar and a member of emergency response team in Kaldar district says “The trainings had helped me react more effectively in response to emergency”
Where generally in such kind of gatherings right holders are given less chance to speak or even invited, one of our right holders gave speech and talked of their problems. He is Muhammad Murad Kateb, the principal of one of the schools which was destroyed by water erosion in 2012, and now his son is member of ActionAid emergency response team, and himself is elder of the community of Buzarak village, Kaldar district. He said “This day IDDR is the most precious day for me, where I am getting a chance to reflect the problems of my people, their voice and do advocacy in front of all international NGOs and government, It is a big responsibility”, saying this he took of her Turkamini colorful hat, and comfortably took breathe with a sense of satisfaction, and that was the moment when I realized how important this day can be.
Following his speech, the video of destruction of school shot by Actionaiders were shown that brought pin-drop silence in the hall and shocked many who like me live in much secure places. Kateb too was watching the video and had tear in his eyes that could explain his story.
Theme of this year’s IDDR day is “Living with disability and disaster” which promotes power of some billion people around the world who lives with some form of disability, representing one fifth of world population who can be very effective in disaster risk reduction but Alas they are mostly underestimated. As said by Said Muhammad, a basketball player and differently abled in his speech “Disability is not inability” and they can be equally effective as every other human.
The program was ended but for me it was a new beginning, a new series of thought about all those vulnerable people, about certitude of their lives, about all those humanitarian agencies, and people themselves who have great responsibility of securing their world for themselves whether from human made miseries such as terror or natural disasters.