At the close of 2005, the African Union (AU) Commission called on experts in disaster management to explore ways for sustainable internal resource mobilization for risk reduction in the continent.
AU's Director of Rural Economy and Agriculture, Babagana Ahmadu, said while no amount of internal preparations would make a country totally risk-free except with the collaboration of neighboring states, as well as regional and international partnership, internal preparedness was crucial in disaster management.
The African continent still reels from the impact of ongoing disasters, including the drought in southern Africa and Niger, the locust invasion in the Sahel and West Africa regions, floods and volcano eruptions.
"National leadership and ownership for mainstreaming disaster reduction into development policies, planning and programmes are preconditions for the success of disaster risk reduction, and for sustainable development in Africa," Briceno, director of the UN Inter-agency secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR) said.
Available international data, he said, showed that disasters in the last 10 years claimed over 600,000 lives and affected over two billion people, with an estimated direct economic loss of 700 billion dollars. Losses resulting from these disasters exceeded contributions from international development sources in developing countries and in some cases were even above the annual gross domestic product.
"Reducing disaster risks is no longer a matter of choice that we can ignore if we want to achieve poverty reduction goals. "We have to take disaster risk reduction seriously and make it a national and local priority if we want sustainable development," said Briceno.
The UN/ISDR, which is an international focal point to facilitate the implementation and follow-up of the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015, says 18 African countries were already moving toward concrete actions to provide a safer environment for their people. The Hyogo Framework of Action was adopted by 168 governments in January 2005 in Hyogo prefecture of Kobe, Japan, with the aim of building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters.
While the Hyogo framework recommends about 60 actions in order to promote disaster risk reduction and mainstream it into development programmes, the African strategy recommends 30 actions.
Complex as it usually strikes, disaster management requires collective efforts and combined knowledge from different stakeholders engaged both in development and humanitarian issues, hence the need for African experts to set up multi-stakeholders national platforms for disaster risk reduction.
According to Ghanaian Sedinam Akepdonu, African governments are fond of paying lip service to very serious issues that affect the socio-economic beings of its societies. Much as natural causes cannot be predicted, enough measures could be taken to control the extent of damage these natural disasters cause. Seif Kebede an Ethiopian suggests that a way must be found to turn disasters, such as floods, into an economic blessing by creating dams for irrigation and hydroelectric power purposes. Evidence of ill preparedness is seen in lack of proper drainage systems in cities and towns, and poor food policies. On the side of food, Malawi had to export maize only to end up importing it again, says Clement Chiwaya.
Formerly, disaster planners thought disaster preparedness only referred to getting ready for an emergency response, but the concept is, in reality much more complex. Disaster preparedness consists of a wide range of measures, both long- and short-term, designed to save lives and limit the amount of damage that might otherwise be caused by the event. Preparedness is concerned with long-term policies and programs to minimize the impact of disasters. The corresponding measures are taken in such fields as legislation, physical and urban planning, public works and building.
By Josephat Juma
Mr. Juma is an African Executive Writer
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