Dealing with Disasters

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By Ester Paulus TSUMEB A week-long workshop programme for regional training in ‘Disaster Risk Reduction’ is currently taking place in the Oshikoto Region. The workshop, being attended by members of the Regional Emergency Management Unit (REMU) from Ohangwena, Oshana, Omusati, Kunene, Kavango, Caprivi and Oshikoto regions, started on Monday and will end on Friday. It is aimed at establishing and strengthening disaster preparedness and the emergency response for REMU. Other objectives of the workshop are to enhance the understanding and application of disaster risk reduction concepts, to improve capacity and governance in disaster risk management as well as improve coordination and response for the emergency management system. Facilitating the workshop, the Acting Director of the Emergency Management Unit, Gabriel Kangowa, said that inadequacies in the centralization of manpower and financial resources, decision-making and information flows, and the lack of reliable information about hazards, risk, vulnerabilities and resources are amongst major weaknesses that REMU faces. Although Kangowa stressed the importance of overcoming these weaknesses, he was quick to point out that the Emergency Management Unit (EMU) under the Office of the Prime Minister, ensures a very high advocacy level for disaster policy and operational decisions. The inclusion of all relevant ministries at REMU and other stakeholders level facilitates co-ordination and harmonization of government activities and policies. The inclusion of private sectors and NGOs promotes a broad national spirit, operational harmony and macro efficiency in the widely based arena of disaster management and mitigation activities, Kangowa explained. Meanwhile, the Oshikoto Chief Regional Officer Tshikarepo Andjamba pointed out that although there are many weaknesses, members of REMU are tasked with turning those weaknesses into opportunities by making use of modern and traditional methods. The establishment of disaster management units at regional, local and community level promotes involvement of the important stakeholders in the management of disasters. REMU was established in 1992 together with the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This is a high level committee with policy formulation authority which coordinates disaster activities at the national level. According to Kangowa, the National Disaster Plan states: “Every citizen of Namibia should assist where possible to avert or limit the effects of disaster.” The workshop is co-funded by the Government and the Namibia Red Cross Society.

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