PNG to develop information systems for disasters

Small-scale natural disasters such as flash floods and landslides have the potential to cumulatively impact communities harder over the course of years – yet they receive far less attention as compared to major disasters. To improve the situation, there is a need to put in place a good information system for disasters, says a United Nations (UN) Disaster Information expert.

One such disaster was a recent flood in the highland province of Jiwaka in January 2016, which affected more than 2000 people, leaving them without crops and livestock, and some without houses.

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is particularly prone to natural disasters including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, cyclones, river and coastal flooding, landslides, and droughts. Every year the country experiences two to three large-scale disasters, and numerous smaller localised disasters. The Highlands of PNG, which contains approximately 40% of the total national population, are subject to weather extremes of heavy rainfall, drought and frost.

Effective information management for disasters is vital for disaster response and relief. Accurate and timely information available before, during, and after disasters can save lives.

In partnership with the PNG National Disaster Center, UN Development Programme (UNDP) is working on setting up country’s first integrated information system for disasters. Its initial task is to identify the current gaps within the existing system and formulate a plan for developing an improved disaster information management system which will systematically record losses and damages from disasters and allow analysis to identify high risk areas in the country.

“We need to continually improve disaster reporting especially at the sub-national level so that the impacts of these less dramatic small-scale disasters can be adequately known and addressed both through immediate humanitarian response as well as to guide longer-term disaster risk reduction activities.”, noted Mr. Rajesh Sharma from the UN’s Bangkok Regional Hub. UNDP has supported several countries around the world in systematising losses and damages from disasters to promote ‘risk-informed development’ to build resilience of communities.

This work is part of UNDP’s larger initiative on disaster risk management, which aims to strengthen disaster risk reduction, preparedness mechanisms and response procedures in Papua New Guinea.