Facts-based reporting on ways we can reduce disaster risk deserves prominence in our newspapers, news websites and on social media. 

This was emphasised by Minister for Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management Hon. Inia Seruiratu during the launch of the National Disaster Media Awareness Campaign in Suva yesterday.

Minister Seruiratu said the launch of the campaign marked the beginning of our concerted push to re-enforce life-saving messages that could save lives when disasters strike. 

He reminded the media that there was no room for spin when reporting on a crisis and disasters demanded good information. “Otherwise, we will only add to the chaos.

Whether we are responding to the impacts of climate change, a highly contagious virus, or both at the same time, objective reporting of the facts saves lives, it saves properties, it saves businesses,” Hon. Seruiratu said.

 “As climate change continues to intensify, the weight of that responsibility will continue to grow. It may not always get the same number of hits as more controversial new stories –– but fact-based reporting on ways we can reduce disaster risk deserves prominence in our newspapers, on our news websites, and on social media.

That’s why, when disasters inevitably strike, a well-informed Fijian public will be well-prepared and ready to respond. 

That’s what this new campaign is all about: Saving lives by getting people the information they need before, during and after a disaster. Every Fijian knows how important that mission must be. As we are already experiencing, cyclones in Fiji are becoming more severe. Winston may have broken records in 2016 –– but the next unprecedented super-storm could strike anywhere, at any time of the year. So, we must be prepared at all times, everywhere.” 

Yesterday’s launching also coincided with the celebration of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, which aimed to strengthen the global culture of disaster risk reduction. He said Government, through the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) was committed to creating a stronger culture of risk reduction in Fiji, across the Pacific, and around the world. 

“As a nation on the frontline of a changing climate, there’s nothing theoretical about Fiji’s disaster risk reduction experiences. We have learnt by doing. Our disaster authorities are battle-tested, and we have amassed an invaluable base of practical knowledge which we are always willing to share with our development partners.

We’re adding to that practical knowledge every day through our grassroot relationships with communities across our islands, because we learnt long ago that the most important lessons are found in affected communities. Some of the best ideas come from those who have lived through disasters themselves.” 

Hon. Seruiratu also launched a number of products yesterday that focused on disaster preparedness. One of the products included the “FindMyEC” digital messaging system which would enable Fijians to quickly identify their nearest evacuation centre before a disaster struck. The system will send tailored information to people when they need it. 

“We know how important that is. When a cyclone is brewing, families can save time figuring out where to evacuate which buys precious time to prepare,” Hon. Seruiratu said. 

Speaking during the launch, UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) Pacific Coordinator Mr. Andy McElroy said that one of the lessons learnt with COVID-19 occurring around the same time as TC Harold was that it had positioned Government and communities to be better positioned to be able to address an era of escalating disaster and climate risks. 

“Disaster risk reduction saves lives, saves livelihoods, saves time, saves money, it’s a proactive agenda,” Mr. McElroy said. “It’s really important day-to-day to talk about disaster risk reduction. It’s a really important prevention development agenda.” 

Meanwhile, a National Disaster Awareness Competition is also now open. Members of the public are urged to visit the NDMO social media platforms for more information on the competitions. This includes poster design, video production and community mapping challenges.

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