Protecting animals, protecting people
By Rosemary Forest

Monday, 2 March 2015

Rosemary ForestAt the core of disaster risk reduction is people. People being able to protect what matters most to them – their loved ones and their livelihoods. For 1.3 billion people that means protecting their animals.

The world’s poorest rely heavily on animals – be it livestock or working animals. That means that their ability to resist and recover from disasters is closely interlinked with their animals’ wellbeing. Talking about animals in disasters can raise a few eyebrows but we believe that protecting animals protects people.

The economics make this clear. For example, it is estimated that $96 dollars of economic value was directly gained for every $1 spent on World Animal Protection’s response to rapid-onset flooding in India.[1]

It is not all about livestock. Nor money – many people are familiar with the images of people refusing to evacuate without their pets during Hurricane Katrina. This can be addressed if individuals and governments incorporate animal needs within their disaster planning. Something the Costa Rican Government has taken to heart targeting pet owners through a public communication campaign.

Doing so however requires that governments, development practitioners and communities begin thinking about animals as relevant to disaster preparedness and response. World Animal Protection has been developing diverse partnerships to help them do just that:

We’re supporting India’s National Disaster Response Force, the lead response agency for natural disasters, to roll out training for its 11,000 members on protecting animals in disasters. Which allows us to reach millions of animal owners in communities around the country, educating and empowering them to ensure their animals and livelihoods are protected from natural disasters.

An appreciation of the role animals’ play in livelihood protection led to World Animal Protection and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) joining forces to find innovative ways to build community resilience. Since 2013 we’ve been working together to deliver training on best practice in animal management to IFRC volunteers around the world.

In Chihuahua, Mexico we’re working with the local community and authorities to deliver an innovative and effective response to drought that considers both animals’ and people’s needs – demonstrating how integrated planning can rebuild and strengthen community resilience.

To ensure the Post 2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is truly implementable, the international community will need to continue engaging non-traditional actors and think outside the box to find innovative ways to reduce animal losses and thereby economic losses in disasters.

You can join us and explore some our successful solutions to these issues at our public forum, March 16 from 12:20-1:45 in Sendai Civic Auditorium Meeting Room 2.

[1] Economists at Large, 2014, A Benefit-cost analysis of WSPA’s 2012 Intervention in the Dhemaji district of Assam, India. A report for The World Society for the Protection of Animals, prepared by Economists at Large, Melbourne, Australia.

Rosemary Forest is Disaster Project Coordinator at World Animal Protection. World Animal Protection has 50 years’ experience helping governments and communities prepare for disasters, enabling people to protect animals and rebuild their lives.