It is a pleasure to
be here today to talk about disaster mitigation and prevention in Southern Africa. This is
a subject that we must take an interest in because this region is particularly prone to
many types of disasters throughout a year.
And no matter how
strong a country may be, disasters expose the economic and social vulnerabilities, and can
potentially extend beyond national frontiers and become a regional issue.
into a quick analysis of disasters and what prevention and mitigation means, allow me to
say a few words about the UN Programme that I represent and why should a World Food
Programme representative be in a position to talk about this subject.
PROGRAMME AND DISASTER MANAGEMENT
The World Food
Programme is the food aid arm of United Nations. People are the focus of our assistance
and combating hunger is our mandate.
In 1999 WFP provided
food assistance to save the lives of 29 million internally displaced, refugees and
returnees who lost their homes due to civil war and political conflict. During the same
time, WFP also assisted 41 million victims of natural disasters such as earthquakes,
severe floods and drought. Of this, 19 million people were assisted through development
programmes receiving aid in food-for-work projects to promote agriculture, improve the
environment and in human resource projects such as school feeding, health and nutrition.
We focus on women
who are the key to prudent management of scarce resources and sustaining household food
security. We help to meet the food and nutritional needs of young children and expectant
and nursing mothers. We work with the poor to invest in human capital through education,
training, and to gain and preserve assets, thereby shifting to more sustainable
livelihoods. And we work to mitigate the effects of natural disasters, in areas vulnerable
to recurring crises of this kind.
activities are always nationally executed, also implementing projects in partnership with
grass root institutions such as national or international NGOs.
Local and regional
food procurement options are prioritised when planning the activities. As a multi-lateral
agency, cash and food resources come from the international donor community all
contributions are voluntary.
In Southern Africa
WFP has programmes in Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia. From Mozambique we
also cover Madagascar. And in Zimbabwe we have our regional food procurement office.
WFPs notable involvement in disasters over the years, in this region, have included
Angolas war displaced, support to Mozambican IDPs and refugees, the Southern Africa
drought during both 80s and the early 90s, refugee support, El Nino contingency planning
in 1997 and most recently the Mozambique and Madagascar floods.
Currently WFP is
working closely with the Governments of Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia
to develop disaster management policy and plans, strengthen disaster management
institutions, and use food-for-assets and food-for-training to help communities strengthen
their capacity to prepare for and mitigate the effects of natural disasters. We also
provide support to build local capacity in vulnerability assessment and mapping, emergency
preparedness and response. Our programmes also promote stronger inter-sector and donor
cooperation and collaboration.
WFP is committed to
work with national programmes that actively promote an agenda that highlights proactive
initiatives to reduce vulnerability to disasters.
Between 1970 and
1994, statistics show that at least 134 million people have been either killed, injured or
made homeless due to natural disasters. More than 95% of all deaths caused by disasters
occurred in developing countries.
From 1990 to 1994,
the economic cost to industrialised countries affected by disasters was estimated to be
more that US$ 535 million a year. The economic and social setback of Mozambique as a
result of this years floods has been calculated at US$ 520 million.
Southern Africa is a
region highly prone to a variety of hazards including drought, floods, cyclones,
earthquakes, pest infestation, epidemics and environmental accidents, including landmines.
Many disasters over the years can be characterised as "acts of God". Yet poor
farming practices and management of the natural resources, extensive periods of conflict
and population displacement have undoubtedly contributed to the impact of the disaster.
climatic variability is a major problem for Southern Africa. The majority of the
population is still largely rural and directly and in-directly dependent on rain-fed
agriculture and livestock.
In addition many of
these people continue to live below the poverty line. They lack resources, access to
education, information and to political and economic advantages. The capacity to absorb,
deflect or manage potential or actual disasters is reduced. And their vulnerability
increases. The loss in terms of life, property, infrastructure and environment is the
result. To the extreme, peoples capacity to cope using its own resources may be
In Southern Africa
there is a wealth of information about what happens when disasters occur. We may even know
about where a disaster is likely to occur and how often. But how much progress has been
made in being more proactive in dealing with disasters to anticipate and to
minimise the impact by focusing on preparedness and mitigation programmes? Do we recognise
that disaster management is developmental and not just an emergency to be dealt with when
PREPAREDNESS, MITIGATION AND PREVENTION
At the World
Conference on Natural Disaster Management held in 1994, all countries were called upon to
implement an agreed plan of action during the International Decade for Natural Disaster
Reduction from 1994 to 2004.
In this plan of
action each country has the responsibility to protect its people, infrastructure and other
national assets from natural disasters. Disaster prevention and preparedness should be
considered integral aspects of development planning. Risk assessment programmes and
emergency plans should be developed. There should be a national institution responsible
for disaster prevention, preparedness and response.
assessments should feature in development plans to mitigate disasters. Regional centres
for disaster reduction should be set-up or strengthened if they already exist. And the UN
and donors should increase the priority on disaster prevention, mitigation and
Southern Africa have committed and subscribed to this plan of action. A review conference
planned for 2004 will gauge each countrys commitment and the results achieved in
implementing the plan.
Especially over the
last five years or so, many countries in Southern Africa have made significant advances in
disaster management and related vulnerability issues.
legislation has been adopted, disaster management institutions created, and coordination
strengthened within Government and with the international community, private sector and
Disaster plans have
been designed for all levels that address prevention/mitigation of, preparedness for and
response to disasters. Reserves in cash, food and non-food have been introduced into
The issues of
vulnerability and disaster preparedness and mitigation are being raised more frequently
through the educational system and the public domain, such as the media and the internet.
Tools have been
acquired and people trained in risk mapping, early warning and contingency planning.
such as SADC have begun to prioritise disaster management by identifying human and
financial resources to strengthen information sharing and natural resource management. The
effective use of military assets in disaster response is also being examined by SADC.
But clearly there
are still many hurdles to jump and gaps to fill as this years flood emergency
demonstrated. Have we learned any lessons from this latest emergency?
Southern Africa is
only a few months away from the next rainy season and rumours have it that the season will
once again be above normal. Therefore can we say with confidence that those countries at
high risk already have available or are working on preparedness and mitigation plans? Are
funds and human resources lined up and people informed on how to minimise risk and reduce
vulnerability? Are regional networks being strengthened for early warning, water
management and information sharing? Are we being pro-active?
Or is everyone so
tired from the last emergency or so overly optimistic that it cant possibly flood
again, preferring to adopt the wait and see attitude? Knowing that it will make the
headlines and be more easily funded by the international community?
LEARNING FROM THE
disasters bring grief, they also bring opportunity. On the one hand, they wake us up to
the reality and test the validity of current policy, planning and technologies, and expose
their weaknesses. On the other hand, they strengthen national and regional collaboration
as old partnerships are renewed and new partnerships emerge especially between all
levels of Government and civil society and the private sector.
measures are visible and draw attention, it is the long-term commitment and concerted
effort to investing in the long-term activities that are the foundation for reduction of
poverty for the sustainable ending of hunger.
Let us start with
the people. As Parliamentarians you know the important role that people play in building a
strong nation. You also know the importance of being accountable to those who have chosen
you for this position. You provide an essential link between the national plans and
programmes and their impact on and the participation of the public. You can also influence
the plans and programmes by bringing the voice of the people to the negotiating table.
PEOPLE HAVE PROFOUND KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING OF DISASTERS INCLUDING THEIR MANAGEMENT.
WE CAN LEARN FROM THEM, WE CAN DRAW PRACTICAL GUIDE AND ACTION THROUGH THEIR
and awareness programmes are fundamental to a strong disaster preparedness and response.
People on the ground need to know what provisions are available for disaster management in
their communities. And community objectives, priorities and needs need to be communicated
to national level officers so that informed decisions can be made. Public awareness needs
to be two-way and continuous in normal times when no disasters have occurred. The
use of the media can play a powerful role especially radio programmes in local
disaster information and advocacy on your agenda when consulting your constituents.
Community initiative needs to be encouraged and people empowered to take responsibility,
within their own capacities, to protect their own lives and property. There are many
actions that can be taken at minimal or no cost. Some suggestions include setting up local
structures to raise alarm and maintaining lists of vulnerable groups who would require
special assistance. Identifying evacuation sites, maintaining canals, dykes and dams
through self-help and food-for-work, preparing checklists of action to take at certain
times of the year can be very effective. And listing available assets that can be tapped
(a boat, a storage facility, a truck), what normal traditional coping mechanisms exist and
regularly passing on this and other information to those who are planning and in charge of
early warning can help improve national planning.
As Members of
Parliament you can also ensure that disaster planning, preparedness and mitigation
information and awareness is an integral part of extension work being carried out by
sector specialists, as well as in the school curriculum. Targeting youth can certainly
have generational effects and lasting results.
In California where
earthquakes are unfortunately all too common, school children are trained well in
prevention and response. Rushing under their desks or standing in the door frame at the
first quake, and bringing extra water and long-shelf food to school in case they
cant make it home is like second nature to them.
It is in making the
disaster a common place feature in ones life in terms of our action and reaction
that challenge can be surmounted.
On the national
scale, one must encourage that appropriate legislation and regulations are already in
place to strengthen national capacity to prepare and respond, as well as to ensure that
people do not degrade their environment to see through short-run problems. The armed
forces have to be legislated to act and assist during a disaster as they have much to
offer in the area of engineering, transport, logistics support and ensuring the security
of public and private property. The Police and other emergency services such as the fire
brigade must also be aware of their roles in preparedness and response. Make insurance
available at affordable prices so that peoples efforts to improve their lives can be
compensated when a disaster hits.
Ministries have to play an active role in implementing disaster management programmes,
especially where professional and technical expertise is required. Each Ministry needs to
appoint a focal point responsible for promoting and coordinating the Ministrys
defined roles and responsibilities that will be detailed in a national plan. The
appointment of a senior Government official responsible for coordination with the
international community and the media can facilitate communication and ensure the quality
and accuracy of the information.
sustainable funding sources will be necessary to raise the level of human resources
available to do assessments, provide training, ensure the availability of information and
communications systems, etc. As key players in approving budgets you need to endorse
financial resources for disaster management, preparedness and prevention. You must also
encourage private and international donors to channel contributions to this sound
National Red Cross
and Red Crescent Societies can make valuable contributions in all aspects of disaster
reduction, as their outreach to communities is strong. As MPs you should support these
national societies ensuring that they do have the means to carry out their important
tasks. If their profile is too low then raise it. Volunteer to partake in their activities
to have a better understanding and appreciation of their work. Encourage students to
internship to cross-fertilize the skills and the practice.
At regional level
make sure that disaster reduction debates are held and that regional structures are put
into place. Of great importance is the regular sharing of information on, for example,
weather, dam and river levels, and pest infestation. Improved management of cross-border
natural resources such as water is essential, especially after this years flooding.
The endorsement of agreements and protocols enabling the formation of regional response
mechanisms, especially involving armed forces support, the creation of rapid response
teams, making available food and non-food stocks, etc. is also urgently required.
Take the opportunity
of this forum to share experiences with colleagues from other countries and to create
inter-country/regional networks to keep the information flows open and to tap unknown
Finally as fathers
and mothers, members of the community, religious groups or private companies, as
up-standing citizens you can ensure that these various groups to which you belong
integrate the knowledge about disaster preparedness and mitigation into their personal
plans or that of the organisation.
INVEST TODAY IN
Southern Africa has the potential to fast become a leading region in the debate and
application of good disaster preparedness, mitigation and response practices.
The commitment of
each country to reduce the individual and national vulnerability to disasters and the
sharing of information and experience can only lead to a strengthened regional capacity.
As important leaders in your individual countries, your continuous contribution and
support is essential for success. This investment can only reap benefits, in both the
short and long term.
There are so many
things that you can do to raise awareness, empower the people, exchange and share the
information and experiences and make disaster preparedness and prevention an integral part
of development programming in the context of poverty reduction.
- Honourable Members of Parliament
- Distinguished Participants