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Americas: Record Disaster Response Missions, 2007

UN disaster response teams conducted record number of missions in Americas in 2007

The United Nations emergency teams that support Member States in coordinating disaster response within hours of tragedy striking conducted nine missions to the Americas this year, the highest ever, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported today.

Overall, the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) teams carried out 14 missions in 2007, higher than the usual yearly number, 70 per cent of them in response to hurricanes and floods, "possibly a glimpse of the shape of things to come given the reality of climate change," OCHA said.

The UNDAC system consists of more than 160 national emergency managers from 57 countries together with staff from OCHA and 12 other international organizations, including UN agencies and the Red Cross and Crescent movement in cooperation with non-governmental organizations and private sector companies. This year Israel and the United Arab Emirates joined the system.

The missions to the Americas included the first ever to Mexico (floods), as well as to Dominican Republic (Tropical Storm Noel), Honduras (Hurricane Felix), Belize and Jamaica (Hurricane Dean), Peru (earthquake), Uruguay (floods) and two to Bolivia (floods). The previous highest for the Americas was eight, after Hurricanes Mitch and George in 1998.

"The 160 members of the United Nations Disaster and Assessment and Coordination system collectively possess literally thousands of years of experience in managing the response to disasters of all kinds and in all parts of the world," UNDAC Chief Arjun Katoch said.

"With their duffel bags perpetually packed, and their travel papers ever ready, these are the men and women who leave their homes within hours of a tragedy to respond to the needs of their fellow human beings around the globe," he added.

Since its inception in 1993, UNDAC members have carried out 167 missions, the largest number in late 2004 and early 2005 in response to the Indian Ocean tsunami when 44 experts from 16 countries and four agencies were deployed to five stricken countries, beginning exactly three years ago today, the day the tsunami struck.

Managed by OCHA, the system is designed to coordinate the response during the first phase of a sudden-onset disaster. It also seeks to strengthen national and regional disaster response capacity.


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