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Early warning systems save lives

Storms often become disasters when people are not warned in time. These projects aim to prevent that.

Ulrike Scheffer, 28.10.2022
Flooding in Dhaka: new warning systems are intended to help Bangladesh.
Flooding in Dhaka: new warning systems are intended to help Bangladesh. © picture alliance / abaca

Natural disasters and extreme weather events are increasing in the wake of the climate crisis. Many victims could survive if they were warned of the danger in good time. That is why the UN wants to establish early warning systems worldwide. Germany is contributing to the realisation of this plan. Here are three examples of German support.

Early warning systems in Bangladesh and Indonesia

Aktion Deutschland Hilft, an alliance of 23 major German aid organisations, is deeply involved in disaster preparedness. One project in Bangladesh aims to improve women’s engagement in emergency planning. The country is frequently hit by severe flooding. Because hazard warnings often reach women later or not at all, women’s groups are now also being included in the warning chain in a targeted fashion. In Indonesia, which was struck by a severe tsunami in 2004, it has been possible to convince imams to broadcast warnings from the loudspeaker systems of their mosques in the event of emergencies.

Preparing for an emergency in Burundi

As a result of climate change Burundi is more and more frequently being impacted by droughts – and simultaneously suffering from floods and mudslides. These extreme weather events particularly threaten agriculture. Working with adelphi, a German think-and-do tank, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) has developed early warning strategies for the affected regions. Municipal committees draw up emergency plans, and emergencies are simulated in practice drills. Vulnerable communities also receive advice on budget planning so that sufficient funds are available for disaster preparedness.

Volunteers sound the alarm in Togo

The German Red Cross (DRK) is helping the population to prepare for floods in Togo. All the country’s rivers have been equipped with water level measuring columns. If the water in a river rises to a dangerous level, voluntary helpers sound the alarm – with the aid of megaphones or mobile phone warnings. A total of 112 communities have already been connected to this early warning system. They have compiled disaster action plans as well as risk maps that indicate safe escape points. The volunteers also collect data that contributes to a computer model of possible floods. The goal is to improve the reliability of risk forecasts and increase the warning time for the local population.


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