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Disaster risk reduction in Southern Africa:
hot rhetoric, cold reality

Ailsa Holloway1



Volume 12, Number 1, 2003

Posted with permission of the Institute for Security Studies
[Complete version - 93Kb ~ 1 min (12 pages)]     [ Share with a friend  ]


Last year, southern Africa was host to two contradictory events. The first, the World Summit on Sustainable Development, optimistically aimed to map forward a path to global sustainability. The second, the launching of a series of international humanitarian assistance appeals, aimed more fundamentally at averting the devastating consequences of regional famine.

That these events, one promising to ensure our future collective security, and the other, a desperate plea to avert current human hardship and widespread suffering, should occur concurrently in the same region, underlines the many contradictions and disconnects in prevailing development policy and practice – especially as they apply to the management of disaster risk – and particularly as these relate to southern Africa. This article will reflect on the challenges of implementing disaster risk reduction in southern Africa, a region not historically regarded as “disaster-prone”, with specific reference to southern Africa’s current humanitarian emergency.

The paper will begin by reflecting the present status of humanitarian need in famineaffected countries and possible explanations for the severity of the impact. This will be followed by a reflection on the dilemmas and divisions that have shaped disaster mitigation efforts in southern Africa. In this context, specific attention will be given to factors that have discouraged greater national ownership of disaster risk within southern Africa, along with the challenges of bridging historic divisions between disaster reduction and development practice.

  1. Ailsa Holloway is the director of the Disaster Mitigation for Sustainable Livelihoods Programme, (DiMP), at the University of Cape Town.

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