Disaster Reduction in Sierra Leone, Risk still high
SIERRA LEONE, Freetown: 13th October every year has been designated by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction to promote a global culture of disaster risk reduction, around the World.
COVID-19 and the climate change emergency are calling for a clear vision, plans and competent, empowered institutions acting on scientific evidence for the public good, and this is why collective efforts are needed to substantially increase the number of Countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020, but unfortunately in 2021, Sierra Leone is still struggling to reduce the risk of disaster in identified communities as a result of mass migration to urban cities and towns and the scramble by some recalcitrant residents who choose to make disaster prone areas their residential abode.
As a result it requires having a national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction in place as agreed by the UN Member States when representatives adopted the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction in 2015, and this is why government in keeping and meeting to this commitment took the bold step to establish the National Disaster Management Agency devolved from the Disaster Management Unit in the Office of National Security (ONS) making it a standalone government agency to work together with Local Councils, Environment Ministry, Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and other partners to engage communities as well as develop and rigorously implement risk reduction strategies that address not only hazards like floods and storms, but those that respond to systemic risk generated by zoonotic diseases, climate shocks and environmental breakdown, across Sierra Leone.
Unfortunately, flash floods in recent times, parts of the country witnessed both manmade and natural disasters and despite efforts by agencies and institutions including huge financial and human resources to reduce the risk mainly caused by flooding, some members of the public continue to behave negligently to adhere to public education calls, as a result government and partners continue to spend billions of Leones without achieving the desired goal of reducing risk of flooding and environmental breakdown.
With the increase in community accidents caused by flash floods and environmental degradation destroying property and claiming the lives of people, attracted the concern of government, which some sections of the public also blame for failing to enforce laws to protect the environment. The Ministry of Environment has been established by government to further address the many concerns of disaster on the environment coupled with climate shocks and Director of Environment, Edward Bendu informed Awoko that good national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction must be multi-sectoral, linking policies in areas such as land use, building codes, public health, education, agriculture, environmental protection, energy, water resources, poverty reduction and climate change adaptation. “It’s time to raise our game if we want to leave a more resilient planet to future generations. Huge financial resources are incurred to reduce risk and it should more visible”. He added that commemorating an event to reduce disaster risk and protect the environment is an opportunity for all concerned to redouble efforts to address the many problems Sierra Leone is faced with regarding flood mitigation and land degradation.
According to world survey and report on risk reduction on disaster management the world allocation for emergency response is 20 times higher than for prevention and preparedness noting that Sierra Leone is no exception to manmade or natural hazards which most times, Lieutenant-General (Rtd) Brima Sesay of the NDMA affirmed include death, loss and damage. On several occasions when such disasters struck he has called on members of the public to join government and its partners to prevent risks of disaster in their various localities, rather than to be lethargic for emergency to occur.
“Cities are the frontlines in dealing with disasters and are a major emphasis of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, as they are particularly vulnerable to increasingly frequent and extreme weather hazards, such as storms, water shortages, environmental degradation and unsafe seismic zones”, Sesay noted.
The retired General emphasized that much more efforts is needed both in human and financial resources to adequately prevent risks of natural hazards across the country, especially flooding noting that huge amounts is being spent every year to reduce risk and much of flooding in prone communities minimized as compared to previous years, and such is a financial deficit to government which should have been used to develop communities.
Lyndon Baines-Johnson is Environmental Analyst at the FCC also mentioned that billions of Leones was used to mitigate flooding in Freetown last year and this year and noted that though the amount is huge, it yielded dividend in some communities while the impact in other communities was not quite felt due to negligence and not being law abiding citizens. He added that punitive actions and law enforcement should be increased on defaulters with nonchalant attitude to behavior change and continues to block drainages with debris as well as the illegal cutting down of trees. Baines-Johnson said the FCC is addressing deforestation through its Freetown Tree Town campaign to plant over 500,000 fast growing trees to reduce run off and soil erosion in drainages across the municipality. AC/13/10/2021
By [email protected]