Enhancing Global Safety: The Vital Role of Early Warning Systems in Disaster Preparedness and Response

The increasing gap in adaptation measures poses a significant challenge as envisioned losses and casualties widen attributed to the low adoption of early warning systems (EWS). Vulnerable communities face difficulties responding to unprecedented crises in diverse regions due to inefficient early warning systems. Addressing this issue requires not only increased financing for effective responses but also anticipatory actions to enable early preparation, safeguarding lives and livelihoods from the impacts of earthquakes, floods, and droughts.

The IGAD Regional Roadmap for Anticipatory Action (IRRAA) proposes an improved approach to preparing for and addressing such crises. This involves collaboration and the implementation of early warning systems at both regional and national levels. The vision is to establish a Coherent Regional Anticipatory Action Approach, harmonized and integrated within National Policies and Strategies. This approach aims to promote disaster anticipation, fostering climate-resilient communities across the IGAD region.

The IRRAA is particularly relevant given the escalating frequency and severity of both climate-related and non-climate-induced disasters. The dynamic nature of these events underscores the need for increased funding to ensure global accessibility to early warning systems, thereby saving lives and reducing the economic burden associated with response efforts.

Quoting the adage that prevention is better than cure, the IRRAA focuses on strengthening Early Warning Systems (EWS) and decision support tools for Anticipatory Action (AA). It also emphasizes the advocacy and integration of AA principles and approaches into national and regional policies and strategies. Additionally, the initiative provides a strategy for resource mobilization and partnerships while strengthening IGAD’s coordination role in supporting the co-development and implementation of anticipatory action at regional and national levels.

Early warning systems
Early warning systems illustration, source: online

Advancements in early warning systems and preparedness have proven to be instrumental in saving lives and mitigating financial losses. IGAD’s prioritization of EWS is crucial for enhancing the safety of citizens in Eastern African states. According to Mr. Kenneth Mwangi, a Project Manager at the IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Center (ICPAC), the emphasis on early warning preparation could have significantly reduced the response cost from $800 million to a mere $2 million in the case of pest invasion.

The significance of early warning systems and early action lies in their ability to minimize harm to people, assets, and livelihoods by triggering well-prepared and tested responses. However, as of 2022, only half of the countries globally were covered by multi-hazard early warning systems. Developing countries, particularly Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, lag, with less than half having such systems in place.

In response to this gap, the UN Secretary-General launched the Early Warnings for All initiative, aiming to protect every person on Earth with early warning systems by 2027. Recognizing early warning and early action as proven and cost-effective methods for reducing disaster deaths and losses, the UN Secretary-General unveiled an Executive Action Plan at COP27 in November 2022. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) were designated as co-leads to implement this initiative.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres emphasized, “All people on earth must be protected by early warning systems within five years.”

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