Not a day goes by without hearing about a disaster happening somewhere. Across the world, every minute that goes by, there’s a calamity happening, some are so big whereas others are considered small, but combined, the effect can be huge.
These could be tsunamis, floods, earthquakes, fire outbreaks, you name it. Cutting across Asia, Europe, Africa and all the earth, there is no place immune to any disaster of some sort, the difference is always on how prepared we are and what capacity do we have to respond.
In the wake of the fresh and most recent Bududa landslides two days a go where at least 35 people have been confirmed dead, the call for alertness should be reechoed.
Over 100 households were washed the mass of water from river Suume after busting its banks, and a big number of people are still unaccounted for. So as we celebrate International Day for Disaster Reduction today (13th October), let’s keep in mind that much more still need to be done.
Women and children are mostly affected when disasters happen according to a study by UNISDR in 2012, no wonder over 250 children have affected by this recent disaster and several bodies of children have been dug out from the soggy ground.
Perhaps we should start thinking of several ways also to help such vulnerable groups including the deaf and lame when disasters happen. This would definitely reduce the magnitude of the disaster effects.
As the celebrations for International Day for Disaster Reduction are going on in Katakwi, and across the world under the theme; Reducing the Economic Loss Of Disasters, we should indeed admit the fact disasters have cost the world a fortune!
Whenever disasters strike, billions of dollars have to be injected in response. According to UNISDR, between 2005 and 2014, disasters cost the world $ 1.4 trillion, 1.7 billion people were affected and about 700,000 people died during that time.
According to World Bank, in Uganda over 200,000 people are affected by disasters every year.
All this adds a huge economic burden to the economy yet investing in prevention could have been a rather lesser figure to deal with.
While opening the first Africa-Arab platform on Disaster Risk Reduction in Tunis on Thursday, the Commissioner of the African Union, Mr. Josepha Sacko couldn’t have put it any better; “Investment by African governments in disaster risk reduction is a matter of survival and principle.” When lives are lost, property and livestock destroyed, the country and everyone in it are at a great loss.
It’s quite disturbing that disasters always happen in almost the same areas.
They hit the same spots and around the same time of the year but we have still failed to curb them or their effects.
With numerous warnings, signs and lessons from the past, we still don’t heed or plan ahead. Looking at Bududa for instance, in 2010, over 300 people died in a landslide, the next year in 2011, the same thing happened, it then happened in 2012 and has been an ad hoc occurrence since then.
Government has always called on the residents of the Elgon region to take heed and advised many to relocate to more secure areas, the calls however have always fallen on deaf ears as people insist that they prefer to farm and stay on the slopes given the fertility of the areas.
Uganda Red Cross Society and other partners have invested immensely in the region through several Disaster Risk reduction and climate change projects.
Residents have been encouraged to plant more trees, adopt proper and appropriate methods of farming, and build flood resistant huts and so on.
There however has been a lot of reluctance from the population.
However hard it is to stop a disaster from happening, we can at least mitigate the effects and be more resilient.
With disasters it’s always an analogy of aiming for the moon and at least land among the stars.
So in disaster preparedness, let’s always set the bar high to guarantee minimum casualty if a disaster becomes inevitable.
As much as developed countries suffer from the worst disasters hence pay the heaviest cost, given the magnitude of the calamities that hit them, we have to give them credit.
In the US hurricanes are announced months before they happen and this gives room for people to effectively evacuate. Our government should double the investment in disaster preparedness and early warning systems to reduce the impact of disasters.
A lot needs to be done at the Uganda meteorological centre and there is more need to regard climate change and its effects.
In as much as we should invest billions in hospital equipment, we still need resources in the disaster preparedness docket since it has become another killer disease in Uganda.
So as we celebrate International Day for Disaster Reduction today, let’s keep watch of the environment, do the proper thins, prepare our communities for disasters if they must happen and also have contingent plans in case such catastrophes strike.
Let us ignore this call no more. Disasters are real and can happen anywhere to anyone.
The author is a social and political critic