04.05.2011 - ODG

“UNESCO helps manage tsunamis” – ‘Nature International Journal of Science’, United States

Editorial article by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, published on ‘Nature’, International Weekly Journal of Science, (United States) on Wednesday, 4 May 2011. The article, as published in on ‘www.nature.com’, follows here below.

UNESCO helps manage tsunamis

Nature Volume 473, 31 - Issue 7345 - (5 May 2011) - doi: 10.1038/473031d
Published online 4 May 2011

In disasters on the scale of Japan's 11 March tsunami, every second counts in making accurate information available to those who need it most. To this end, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) helps professionals and populations to anticipate the risks, assess possible flooding and coordinate monitoring.

Some lessons have been learned from the ravages of the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. In addition to the Pacific early-warning systems, UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission is coordinating the set-up of regional tsunami-warning centres in the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean, the north-east Atlantic and the Mediterranean, as well as full-scale simulation exercises.

International scientific cooperation can help in countering such disasters, whose scope extends beyond frontiers and state capacity. But this cannot replace the authority and initiative of national leaders. We also need to do much more to strengthen the capabilities of local communities.

Managing the unexpected depends on education and culture. For example, Japanese children are taught how to respond to earthquakes and tsunamis at school; and because the people of Simeulue Island in Indonesia were aware of tsunami warning signs, only seven died in the 2004 event. With UNESCO's support, Indonesia and Thailand are accelerating their risk-reduction education. Last year, students and teachers were trained in schools across six coastal cities in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile.

Urbanization and uncontrolled development threaten the coral reef and mangrove ecosystems that mitigate the force of tsunamis. As some 10% of the global population live in low-lying coastal zones, protecting these natural barriers is also a shared responsibility.

- By Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

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