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Disaster risk knowledge in Nepal

Disaster risk is expressed in terms of potential loss of lives, deterioration of health status and livelihoods, and potential damage to assets and services due to the impact of existing natural hazards. Disaster risk reduction (DRR) is a systematic approach to identifying, assessing, and reducing disaster risk, and it helps minimize the vulnerability of a society or community. It also prevents or mitigates the adverse effects of natural disasters, facilitating a sustainable development process. The Second World Conference on Disaster Reduction was held in Kobe (Hyogo), Japan in January 2005, which adopted the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005–2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters. It has provided a unique opportunity to promote a strategic and systematic approach to reducing vulnerabilities and risks. HFA states that all countries must use knowledge, innovation, and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels. Moreover, it suggests that disasters can be reduced substantially if people are well informed and motivated about measures they can take to reduce vulnerability.

Poverty drives people to live in high risk marginal areas of mountains and river valleys, which makes them vulnerable to disasters. Heavy disaster losses suffered from earthquakes and tsunamis or landslides and floods create additional poverty among a large number of people by destroying their houses, productive lands, other personal assets, and livelihood. Hence, poverty is both cause and consequence of disasters in underdeveloped or developing countries. DRR is particularly important for sustaining the attainment of all development goals, since it provides a safety net for the hard-earned development gains of a developing country. In Nepal, it is a great challenge to protect infrastructure and public and individual properties from frequent landslide, flood, and earthquake disasters. Each year hundreds of people are killed and a large amount of public and private properties are destroyed in landslide, flood, fire, and avalanche disasters. Each large-scale disaster sets the country back several years in terms of the development efforts. When scarce resources such as time, energy, expertise, and funding are suddenly diverted in relief and recovery work, the overall development activities are delayed significantly.

The disaster statistics of Nepal always motivate and justify the urgent need of DRR works in Nepal. Therefore, Nepal has also adopted HFA and so far the Government of Nepal has formally adopted policies guided by DRR and implemented the DRR in its various development as well as education programs. In Nepal, the World Disaster Reduction Campaign for 2006-2007 was initiated and many programs such as school curricula for disaster risk education, community based disaster management at the village level, disaster mitigation plans at the district level etc. have been implemented. Similarly, raising awareness within school communities is a well implemented program in the schools of Nepal. This awareness activity includes training of teachers, organizing disaster quiz competitions among schools and local youth clubs, school contests on disaster risk reduction knowledge, campaigning for disaster safety in communities, and turning school students into catalysts and initiators in many more community based disaster awareness activities.