Careful planning called key to avoiding multiple disasters

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With the beginning of monsoon season, countries in south Asia including Myanmar are bracing themselves for upcoming extreme weather events while managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
April and May is the hottest months bringing heatwaves and drought to Myanmar. Late May and June is the beginning of the four-month monsoon bringing floods to parts of the country. In monsoon season, Myanmar sees not only floods but also disasters caused by torrential rain.
Cyclones are the most pressing problem. If the cyclone and floods damage crops, it will place even more pressure on the agricultural sector, and threaten the livelihoods and welfare of poor smallholder farmers, with likely knock-on effects for revenue-raising food exports and food prices.
Meanwhile, the number of mosquito-borne Dengue fever cases often greatly increases in the monsoon season.
With the upcoming season, there is a demand on regional governments and communities to prepare a joint response to COVID-19 and flooding, without increasing the risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Of late, the Disaster Risk Reduction sector has sought to shift disaster-prone countries’ focus from response preparedness, where actions plans are simply put in place to deal with the aftermath of disasters, to disaster risk reduction, where a greater level of resilience is built into communities to make them more able to endure disasters.
With time running out before new climate extremes arrive and collide with the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and its partners are making ten recommendations to guide South Asian nations.
Here are the excerpts from recommendations for managing climate disasters concurrently with COVID-19:
• Integrate multiple hazard and COVID-19 hotspots to inform disaster preparedness and response strategies for monsoon planning
• Minimise the burden on hospitals arising from other hazards (by treating COVID-19 patients separately)
• Revise standard operating procedures (SOPs) for managing cyclone shelters, with the participation of communities.
• Strengthen capacities and resources for preparing for other hazards. For example, explore the possibility of using schools and colleges (with social distancing) as temporary shelters
• Establish COVID-19 protection protocols for disaster response forces.
• Establish support networks (with social distancing) for providing food and financial relief for the most vulnerable
• Put in place provisions for the elderly in disaster-preparedness mechanisms to reduce, or, if possible, eliminate their exposure to COVID-19
• Strengthen hospital preparedness, including access to sanitation and quality water, to protect functionality when natural disasters strike
• Form multiple-hazard response teams with wide-ranging expertise and the capacity to respond rapidly to both, COVID-19 and natural disasters
We are confident that our lessons from past disasters would help us tackle challenges ahead.

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