An increasing number of people now feel that the key to developing effective disaster reduction policies is action at local government and community level. The biggest obstacle here is the lack of knowledge of how vulnerabilities can be reduced and disasters prevented. It is to address this lack that ODPA, the Office for Disaster Preparedness in Africa, was established in early 2001.
ODPA was established jointly by the National Centre of Disaster Management of South Africa, Pretoria, the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and the
Disaster and Emergency Reference Centre (DERC), The Hague. The aim is to collect and disseminate disaster reduction information for local authorities, NGOs and local communities. DERC brought in its vast disaster management training database. A close collaboration with the UN Centre for Human Settlement, (UNCHS – Habitat) has been agreed.
Located within the University of Witwatersrand, ODPA’s first focus will be to develop modular, professional training courses in disaster reduction, which can also be used as certification credits for a disaster reduction masters programme. The masters programme will combine a general introduction to the processes that cause and reduce disasters with in-country courses that focus on local hazards.
ODPA will also hold training workshops for NGOs to introduce disaster reduction as a development task and collect local information on hazards and vulnerabilities in order to develop a collective disaster memory in Africa.
ODPA has now entered into a tripartite cooperation with the disaster preparedness offices in Kingston, Jamaica (ODPEM) and Bangkok, Thailand (APDC) to form an APC alliance in this field and to share training materials and research. The intention is to achieve mutual recognition of courses and to collaborate in the development of masters programmes.