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VietNamNews

We were lucky this time, but what if another Haiyan comes

Update: November, 27/2013 - 10:13

by Doan Van Thai, vice president and secretary-general of the Viet Nam Red Cross

Viet Nam had a lucky escape after Typhoon Haiyan weakened having smashed through several cities in the Philippines and merely grazed the country.

But for 90 million Vietnamese people, the storm was just the latest climate-related phenomenon that highlights the vulnerabilities of many communities, and we would like to share ways donors can address these weaknesses.

Viet Nam is a country of increasing economic prosperity, with its gross domestic product growing at an annual average of 7.3 per cent over the last few decades. But these statistics mean little to a family with a unsellable crop after Typhoon Wutip destroyed their rice fields barely six weeks ago.

This story — just one of many from families being helped by the Viet Nam Red Cross following that calamity in October — demonstrate how easily a population pulling its way out of hardship can be plunged back into poverty by the force of a single weather disturbance.

More typhoons and other natural disasters will inevitably affect Viet Nam, and though economic progress is being made, we must not be complacent and assume that authorities will be able to cope with the multiple natural emergencies that strike the country each year.

As human beings, we cannot fail to be touched by the immediate suffering of others. The outpouring of sympathy and donations to the victims of Haiyan in the Philippines is a clear reflection of our collective conscience.

But we also need to see beyond the media spotlight of the crisis and ensure that the urgent needs of getting disaster-prone countries, including Viet Nam, ready for future threats, do not fade into the shadows.

Calling donors

The international media, governments and aid groups, can mobilise in force for super-storms and major catastrophes.

Sometimes, though, seeing beyond the big crisis is hard.

More has to be done.

The current emergency appeal launched last month by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to support the immediate needs of thousands of people dealing with the aftermath of Wutip is only 37 per cent funded.

A financially secure foundation is necessary for humanitarian organisations like the Viet Nam Red Cross to react not only at the start of an emergency.

A long-term vision — one that enhances the resilience of communities to withstand multiple typhoons each year — is what will truly make a difference.

The strategic shift from emergency assistance to development aid is rational and responsible, but it must be managed in such a way the victims are not ignored. Resilience here is our guide and our aim.

Donor agencies, governments and humanitarian agencies are in a privileged position to help families like the one that lost their rice crop to pick up the pieces of their lives and begin — again — to improve them.

Providing assistance right now gives us the chance not just to make desperate lives more comfortable, but also to create the conditions under which the next storm, the next flood will be just a drama rather than a catastrophe. — VNS



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