By William Mbangula
Omusati Governor Sackey Kayone has criticised the Regional Emergency Management Unit (REMU) for lack of means to respond to emergency situations.
In a speech delivered on his behalf by Outapi Councillor Simon Shileka, he expressed reservations with the way finance is centralized at the expense of regional emergency units.
The speech was delivered during a two-day disaster risk management consultative meeting here which was called by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) in conjunction with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
“It is unfortunate that the emergency programme is wholly centralized while incidents which need attention are occurring on the ground. The REMU have become toothless dogs and have no means to respond to emergency cases.
“One would have expected a budget allocation per region no matter whether actual money is kept in the OPM so that REMUs can positively respond to emergency cases. I hope this particular meeting will look at this shortcoming,” said Kayone.
For the National Emergency Management System to deliver, it needs to be guided by sound national policy and legislation. However, noted Kayone, policies alone do not help and cannot be effective unless stakeholders including communities at village level embrace a culture of safety.
“It is however important at the outset to state that comprehensive and integrated emergency management is based on sector wide partnership between government departments, civil society, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), UN agencies and community-based organizations.
“In this regard, the multidisciplinary nature of disaster management requires coordination to avoid the pitfalls of duplication, overlaps and delays of response in the event of catastrophes. The need for a comprehensive policy cannot therefore be over-emphasized.”
Attended by regional and local councillors, traditional authorities, public servants and leaders of the NGOs, the meeting is the third to be held by the OPM in the regions. Others were held at Khorixas for Erongo and Kunene regions, and Katima Mulilo for Kavango and Caprivi regions.
Next in line are Otjiwarongo for Otjozondjupa Region, while Omaheke and Khomas regions will be catered for at Gobabis, Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions will have their meeting at Tsumeb, and Hardap and Karas regions will be consulted at Keetmanshoop.
In terms of the Cabinet directive, the National Emergency Management System comprises committees at regional, constituency and village level in order to manage emergency cases.
The process is however handicapped by the lack of operational resources. Up to now, it is said, Namibia’s disaster risk management is being implemented on the basis of the 1979 colonial Civil Defence Ordinance that has outlived its purpose.
As a result, some people are calling for the revision of the current policies and legislation in order to reflect the current administrative systems and the new approaches to disaster risk management that aim to mainstream risk reduction.
During the two-day deliberations, participants looked at ways to perfect a draft policy document on disaster risk management, which is expected to be submitted to Cabinet after all the regions have been consulted.