Govt Relooks Disaster Management

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By Petronella Sibeene SWAKOPMUND About 20 stakeholders from different sectors are gathered at the coastal town of Swakopmund for a Disaster Risk Reduction Policy Development workshop that will shape the National Emergency Management System in the country. Namibia has experienced an increase in the frequency, severity and economic losses and numbers of people affected by both natural and man-made disasters. This year alone, the country was hit by no less than 10 flooding incidents that caused massive damage to property and displacement of people. Veld fires have destroyed over 200 000 hectares of pasture, coupled with wild and domestic animals’ life loss and livelihoods. The polio outbreak also had its toll and currently the Caprivi Region is fighting the outbreak of anthrax in wild animals. These events have had a negative impact on the economy and are a setback to development as they result in diversion of scarce national resources. Yesterday, Prime Minister Nahas Angula stated that all these eventualities are testimony that the country is not immune to hazards and hence the need to put in place effective mechanisms that could be applied before or when disaster strikes. Although the Namibian government has a constitutional responsibility to protect the lives and property of its citizens, in the past years Namibia’s disaster management was being implemented using the civil defence ordinances that are believed to have outlived their purpose. According to Angula, it is only wise to review the current policies and legislation so that they reflect the current administrative systems and the new approaches to disaster risk management and reduction. “The proposed disaster policy will adopt the disaster risk reduction approach that is in keeping with the African Regional Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction as well as the international strategy for disaster risk reduction that focuses on proactive disaster risk management as opposed to disaster response,” he said. The Premier pointed out that policies alone do not help and can never be effective unless all stakeholders, including the communities at the village level, embrace a culture of safety. “Fires are sometimes started by our irresponsibility; transportation accidents are caused by and large by negligence; and floods affect mostly those of us who build in flood-prone areas. It is every citizen’s responsibility to prevent disasters,” he urged. Apart from that, Angula says the multidisciplinary nature of disaster management requires coordination to avoid pitfalls of duplication, and overlaps and delays in responding in the event of catastrophes. “I trust the process of policy development will give way to the development of a Disaster Risk Management Act of Parliament that will ensure that there is adequate policing and enforcement of disaster risk reduction activities across sectors,” he said.