The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) has renewed it’s commitment to working more with the media in order to push messages that are critical in building resilient communities.
UNDRR Assistant Programme Management Officer Isabel Njihia was speaking at the opening of a week-long workshop on reporting disaster risk reduction targeting about 50 journalists from 22 African countries in Mombasa, Kenya.
She said 2020 marks the start of a decade of action and there is great need to ensure the media is part of the equation because of the influence they have in reaching out to masses.
“As you might be aware we are entering into a critical phase where all countries are supposed to demonstrate action being done on the global commitments made in contributing to the attainment of several targets of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction – a global blueprint for reducing risks and related sustainable development goals and therefore we need to be on the same footing with the media by equipping them with necessary skills,” said Njihia.
She added that time is ripe for the media to engage an extra gear in promoting solution journalism which helps in not just focusing on the problems but as well as expert opinions which can bail out the people from the vicious cycle of suffering or indeed help change the way they perceive disasters.
She said: “ The doom and dire story is good but that’s not what people are interested in at the moment. So, our expectation is that while the media will be free to report on disaster events, there is also a critical need to highlight best practices which have helped to reduce deaths during a disaster, number of people affected, property damages and economic losses in general.“
Co-organizers of the training, the Society of Disaster Risk Reduction Journalists (DIRAJ) through their Secretary-General David Owino hailed the effort by the media in doing a to communicate messages that can prevent extensive damages during disasters amidst numerous challenges they face.
He said African newsrooms are riddled with so many challenges including limited human resource, equipment, mobility, political influence and access to information and yet the are still fighting to create space for the voiceless and ensure their messages catch the necessary attention.
“DIRAJ started small and we are happy that the model we took is going global and we believe in the next few years to come, disaster risks reduction issues will begin to receive the attention they deserve,” said Owino.
One of the participants working with the Malawi News Agency Chimwemwe Njoloma described the training as timely and beneficial to her work, considering her passion for environmental reporting
“ What I like about the training is that it has been designed in a way that one is able to capture the technical information on DRR issues while at the same time share country experiences on how such information can be best presented to the general public in a manner that triggers a possible action and national debate,” said Njoloma.
Her counterpart Nellie Kanyemba also working with the Malawi News Agency agrees the training has opened doors to new territories she initially thought were not critical or disaster linked until after feasting on the various presentation delivered by DRR experts from across the country.
“For example now I know why city councils need to be taken to task over substandard infrastructure and the national level it’s also good to ensure that commitments by the government at the global level are reflected in the national agenda and policies. At the same time, it is our role to ensure such policy commitments are funded in the national budgets, and that is the only measure through which Malawi can claim success towards the implementation of resilient programs that impact the locals,” said Kanyemba.