Kasey Channell is Acting Director of the Disaster Response and Mitigation Division of USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA)
Benjamin Franklin is famous for the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Today, we are faced with great challenges brought about by increasing population and urbanization, a changing climate, and a demonstrated increase in the frequency and severity of natural disasters.
The number of disasters worldwide has increased dramatically in the past 35 years. The International Monetary Fund estimates that damages from disasters are 15 times higher now than they were in the 1950s. Natural hazards—earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, and droughts for example—may be inescapable, part of our geology and weather. However, the degree of suffering, lives lost, and economic damage is also directly linked to human interventions, and can be reduced through effective planning and preparedness.
In 2011, the trend of mega-disasters continued, from the triple threat of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident in Japan to the triple threat of famine, war, and drought in the Horn of Africa. We know that prudent measures to improve response, to increase disaster management capacity, and to plan and prepare can have dramatic dividends.
Disaster risk reduction has been a part of USAID’s work for decades. We provide life-saving humanitarian assistance in response to disasters and emergencies, and we strive to do so in ways that better assess the threat of hazards, reduce losses, and ultimately protect and save more people during the next disaster. We have seen, and contributed to, improved disaster response capacity in many places around the world.
However, to continue to tackle these challenges in the face of increasing disaster risks, what has become clear is this: We need more than an ounce of prevention, we need pounds of prevention!
Today, we are launching a new series of short articles that illustrate how disaster risk reduction works and why it is important. I invite you to read the first “Pounds of Prevention” (PDF, 282KB) with a focus on the Philippines. Please visit this site periodically for updates and for key messages about saving lives and livelihoods and the cost-effectiveness of these investments.