It was Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University in New York, the United States of America who said: “Disasters are usually a good time to re-examine what we've done so far, what mistakes we've made, and what improvements should come next.”
We are reminded of this saying by natural disasters that have hit the SADC region over the few past years which have kept us thinking whether we have learnt from our mistakes and are prepared to face them in future.
As we speak, the region faces another drought if what climate experts and meteorologists have said is anything to go by. The experts have predicted an El Nino weather phenomenon which is usually associated with low rainfall.
This therefore means that most SADC member states could be hit by a drought this coming season.
We have also been at the mercy of floods and other natural calamities, thanks to climate change. Droughts and natural disasters usually hit the hardest vulnerable members of societies.
The question are these vulnerable communities well-informed of the pending disasters? Are those in authorities also informed and equipped to deal with the natural disasters?
Have we drawn lessons learnt from our past and how do we move forward? It is a fact that natural disasters will always be with us and there is no way we can avoid them.
Elsewhere in this issue, we report that SADC this week held a workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa, which was attended by communication, advocacy, data and information management specialists from across the region and their partners.
The workshop was held under the auspices of the Regional Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis (RVAA) which is the main information system that provides an in-depth understanding of different dimensions of food and nutrition security and vulnerability in the SADC region.
Key among the issues discussed is the need for information dissemination on pending natural disasters, food security and vulnerability of various groups of people across the region.
The workshop tackled the need to improve the production, management, dissemination and uptake of food security information to inform decision-making.
It was noted that while natural disasters cannot be stopped from occurring, SADC member states can arm themselves with information to cope and address the impacts of natural disasters.
The role of the media in information dissemination, especially on natural disasters which have come about as a result of climate change, is therefore of paramount importance.
It was former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon who at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in 2015, said:
“Climate change has happened because of human behavior, therefore it’s only natural it should be us, human beings, to address this issue. It may not be too late if we take decisive actions today.”
Natural disasters have over the past few years largely devastated smaller nations, a majority of them in Africa. The continent is home to 14 percent of the world’s population, but it only emits 3 percent of global fossil fuel carbon and 5.3 percent of global greenhouse gases.
Yet when it comes to the economic costs of natural disasters, Africa suffers the most. For example, the El Nino-induced drought that hit the SADC region in 2015/2016 is understood to have affected 39 million people in the region. This resulted in SADC governments and their partners forking out more than US$1 billion in humanitarian aid.
We believe the issue of climate change and natural disasters can no longer be ignored as it affects every facet of life – from the rich to the poorest of the poor.