SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities
The event, under the title “Volunteers as First Responders in Times of Crisis: Volunteers for resilience and solidarity,” kicked off International Volunteer Day (also called IVD) worldwide.
The event aligned with the IVD global campaign to promote volunteers as first responders in times of crisis and instability, helping people to rebuild their lives in the immediate aftershock of tragic events.
UNV Executive Coordinator Mr. Olivier Adam acknowledged the efforts of the Nepali people after the devastating 2015 earthquake:
What was once an informal network of helpers to people in need, many volunteers are now highly organized and play a fundamental role in humanitarian and development initiatives through organizations, clubs and groups that span the world. In recognition of the contributions they make, governments have taken steps to promote volunteer action by strengthening policies and institutions, and by increasing funding to support volunteer infrastructure.
Many people in rural communities in Nepal have been living in cramped conditions in temporary shelters for the last two years, so Preity decided to volunteer to help build earthquake resilient homes for earthquake victims.
Preity said, “After the devastating earthquakes hit Nepal in 2015, communities near the epicentre of the earthquake suffered a massive loss of lives, houses and livelihoods. Many people from the epicentre district of Gorkha needed support to start their life again, as they are not financially strong enough to build a new house for themselves.
In El Edén, a Mam indigenous community in the northeastern part of Guatemala, residents cut down hundreds of trees each year for their domestic energy needs. “We collect firewood in the dry season for the whole year. We look for wood which is completely dry, because it will burn for longer and we use less wood”, comments Celedonia Félix Matías, President of the organization Eucalyptus.
Local communities were mobilised with the support of Action for Sustainable Change Kenya (AFOSC Kenya) to conduct low-cost, feasible actions to build resilience to disasters, as part of the USAID/OFDA funded programme Frontline. Local coalitions composed of women and youth groups and community-based organisations were established to build a movement for change at the sub-county level.
These events have multiplied over the last ten years, just when the planet has reached its all-time temperature records, blurring the difference between human-made and purely natural catastrophes.
The earthquake, which hit Nepal on 25 April 2015 with multiple aftershocks, brought about widespread destruction across the country and resulted in 8,790 deaths, 22,300 injuries and 755,549 houses that were either damaged or completely destroyed.
In coordination with UNDP experts on demolition, UN Volunteers undertook the structural assessment of public and private buildings damaged by the earthquake, including schools, health posts and monasteries.
The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme in Myanmar, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), runs a Disaster Risk Reduction Youth Volunteer (DRRYV) project in support of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.
On September 19, 2017, Mexico was hit by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake that toppled buildings in Mexico City and four surrounding states. Only two hours earlier, I had left my meeting in a high-rise building to participate in the annual drill to commemorate the 1985 earthquake which struck on the same date 32 years ago. As part of the exercise, schools and office buildings were evacuated. Some people considered the simulation useful when the real thing hit.
“Nothing for us, without us!” These were the chants that could be heard by disability groups at the World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai 2015.
Views from the frontline, 2009-2015