Gaborone – SADC seems to have heeded advice on disaster preparedness following calls from different quarters that the regional bloc should improve on disaster responsiveness and preparedness,
A Regional Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis (RVAA) Programme’s regional pre-assessment workshop was held in Gaborone last week. The workshop was attended by participants from Botswana, Eswathini, Lesotho and Namibia. Participants from Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe had to withdraw because of the cyclones that ravaged their countries recently.
The workshop opened with a call to National Vulnerability Assessment Committees (NVACs) of member states to harmonise and improve the quality of assessments and analysis; and integrate emerging issues, among others nutrition, gender, disaster, HIV, markets and urban vulnerability to meet the needs of decision makers. The workshop brought together 45 representatives from NVACs of SADC member states, the SADC Secretariat and development partners as well as the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Speaking at the opening of the workshop, WHO Botswana country representative, Martins Ovberedjo, said the training was aimed at putting in place teams that can rapidly respond to public health crisis and natural disaster.
“Considering the recent Cyclone Idai that hit our neighbouring countries; Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, as well as the Ebola persisting in DRC, measles hitting hard in Madagascar, cholera coming back strongly in Southern Africa, indeed this training had to be prioritised. Our countries need to be better prepared,” he said.
Ovberedjo said the training was also aimed at providing a sustainable approach through which capacity building using an all hazard approach could be institutionalised and maintained.
Senior programme officer, disaster risk reduction at the SADC Secretariat, Sithembiso Gina, said policy and decision makers needed timely and credible information to respond effectively to several disasters that had affected the SADC region this year.
“The regional food security is currently threatened by a series of disasters, including tropical Cyclones Idai, Enawo and Kenneth that hit several countries and destroyed almost one million hectares of land, several crops, and seed stocks. This situation makes the 2019 assessments critical to inform disaster response,” she said.
Speaking on behalf of the chairperson for Namibia Vulnerability Assessment Committee, Obert Mutabani called on the NVACs to reflect on how they follow up on the implementation of their recommendations, particularly on building resilience to disasters.
“We have been making recommendations for programming on resilience for a long time. It is time we asked ourselves if the governments and stakeholders are implementing these recommendations because the frequency of disasters and the impact on the livelihoods of the population has increased,” he said.
For his part, integrated health services advisor at Botswana’s Ministry of Health and Wellness, Mareko Ramotsababa, noted that the training will build the capacity of rapid response teams to systematically investigate all public health emergencies to fully understand their nature and hence mount a fitting and informed response when called upon to do so
Like Mutabani, Ramotsababa called on participants to interrogate some of the region’s methods of work and yard sticks that should be used to measure success in the region’s routine operations and strive to improve them. The workshop participants noted that the member states were at different stages of preparing for or undertaking the 2019 vulnerability assessments and analysis, therefore, the inputs from the workshop will enrich the assessments and analysis.
The regional dissemination of the synthesised results is expected to take place in July 2019. There have been calls for serious disaster preparedness and responsiveness by authorities across the region.
The calls follow the recent devastation caused by Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth which recently ravaged the Comoros, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe and left scores of people dead while others were left homeless. Apart from cyclones, the region is also prone to natural disasters such as El Nino-induced drought and floods.