Managing Disaster Risk in Xiengkhouang

Mar 9, 2015

Children raise their hands for a roll call following a fire evacuation drill at his school. Photo: UNDP Lao PDR/Rebecca Zorn.

Phonsavan, 9 March, 2015 – Multi-hazard, community based Village Disaster Management Plans that reduce risks and prepare for disasters have been launched this week in villages across Kham and Khoun Districts in Xiang Khouang Province, in a joint effort by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Lao PDR and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

In total, 14 Village Disaster Management Plans were launched by Village Disaster Management Committees. The committees are run by community volunteers, 30 per cent of whom are women, who have been trained in disaster risk management and response. Each village plan identifies safe emergency shelters for both people and animals, evacuation routes, plans for stockpiling and storage of emergency provisions, and include plans for vulnerable people, such as the elderly and disabled.

The launch of the Village Disaster Management Plans are part of the UNDP Lao PDR’s Integrated Disaster and Climate Change Risk Management Project (IDCRM) with the objective of building the capacity of national and local government as well as communities to prevent, mitigate and prepare for disasters such as floods, landslides and storms.  So far, the project has been working with communities in Xiengkhoung and Xayabouly that have a history of disaster or are at high risk of disaster.

Ms. Rebecca Zorn Disaster Risk Management Specialist for UNDP and IDCRM Project Technical Advisor, stressed the importance of disaster planning, “Villages now have the education to reduce and respond to various hazards, which will ultimately save lives and protect livelihoods. With these plans, our goal is both to prepare for emergencies while finding longer term solutions to reduce risk of all hazards.”

“This project was designed to build capacity of communities in the two Typhoon Haima-affected provinces and currently focuses work in four districts in Xiengkhoung and Xayabouly. Loss of life and livelihoods can be prevented with the right preparedness training and through increased understanding of why disasters occur,” said Ms. Zorn.

The Village Disaster Management plans are being shaped by the women of Xienkhoung’s vulnerable communities who have taken up vocal, leadership positions in many village committees. Disasters impact differently on women to man and planning must reflect this. InSyphom Village, Xiengkhoung, Ms. Bounta Nantavong, an active member of her Village Disaster Committee explained, “Women are more affected by disaster than men because they need to take care of the children as well as their garden and food for the family, also they worry about the health of everyone in the family. For them, this makes it more difficult after a disaster.”

Ms. Boualy Vongvilay from the same village committee also highlighted the importance on women’s participation in planning for disasters, “It’s important for us (women) to be involved in planning because women are more sensitive to the community’s needs and add this to negotiations.” 

With help from donors, the UNDP Lao PDR has been supporting the Government of Lao PDR since 1997 to improve their national and local disaster risk management systems. This includes training local government officials and community leaders to be better prepared for the most recurrent hazards through locally driven disaster management plans.

Lao PDR continues to suffer extreme recurrent disasters; floods, storms, droughts and landslides consistently take their toll. In a nation where 80 per cent of the population is dependent on natural resources for survival, these disasters cause loss of lives, income and communal assets, destruction of livelihoods, and increase food insecurity.

Xiengkhouang has been experiencing disasters at an increasing rate in the last decade. Communities are exposed to recurrent hazards such as flood and drought impacting on lives and livelihoods year after year by reducing crop yields, yearly incomes, and ultimately increasing the potential of food insecurity.
 
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Contact information

Mr. Vichit Sayavongkhamdy, Project Specialist, UNDP Lao PDR
Tel: +856 21 267 719
Email: vichit.sayavongkhamdy@undp.org