Better community engagement of at-risk communities, with a particular focus on the disabled, was up for discussion at the Fourth Pacific Meteorological Council and second Pacific Meteorological Ministers Meeting (PMMM) held in Honiara, Solomon Islands.
IRDR’s Science Committee Member and Co-Chair for RIA Dr Bapon (Shm) Fakhruddin, currently working in Tonkin + Taylor International in New Zealand, took centre stage at the 14-17 August meeting, co-hosted by the government of Solomon Islands, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).
Bapon’s talk on end-to-end impact based multi-hazard early warning systems, beginning with community ownership and engagement, was exceptionally well received. Reaching communities and ensuring that those most in need are provided with effective communications and technologies are top priorities for the Pacific Meteorological Council (PMC).
Effective early warning systems (EWS) required a complete understanding of the populations and assets exposed to threats, Bapon told the meeting. “Risk based early warning systems are essential. Practice shows that people and communities at risk need to be involved in the understanding of their exposure and the vulnerabilities of different groups, including the disabled, the elderly, children and pregnant women. “
Bapon said that an effective system also relied on expert risk assessment and accurate, appropriate information that translated early warnings into early actions at community level.
“We’ve always been talking about reaching the last mile, and that means getting to the people who haven’t got the message we are relaying. We’re talking about people with disabilities as well. They need to be included in our conversations and awareness efforts too,” said the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme’s (SPREP) Climate Change Advisor, Espen Ronneberg,
“We do this to prepare those who are vulnerable to disasters as well and that includes people with disabilities.”
Ronneberg believed that the way forward lay in encouraging disabled people join in on EWS discussions.
“I think the best way to include them would be through the People with Disabilities’ Forum, and it will be great if we can get them to take interest in meteorology as well,” he said.
The PMC session included discussion on new forms of risk assessment, such as the shift from deterministic to probabilistic risk estimation, the emergence of climate change impact studies and the availability of improved risk information systems. Geo-spatial tools and risk maps posed new EWS challenges in terms of their application by policy makers. The Honiara presentation reinforced the WMO’s approach to Climate Risk and Early Warning System (CREWS) initiatives.
The impacts of climate variability and change were recognised at the meeting as major challenges to island nations. Of particular concern to the Pacific region were sea level rise, salt water intrusion, drought, flooding, coastal inundation, ocean conditions (tides, swells, waves, acidification) and impacts on health (e.g. malaria and dengue), water resources, agriculture and fisheries (invasive species, etc.).
The next PMC will be held in Samoa in 2019.
The PMC consists of members of the Pacific National Meteorological and Hydrological Services supported by its technical partners, regional organisations, non-government organisations and private sectors.