In response to deadly rains that have hit the country in the last few months leaving more than 200 people dead and billions of Francs worth of crops and other properties destroyed across the country, the Government last week announced it had set up a national ministerial level disaster response committee.
The high-level committee is comprised of at least seven ministries (disaster management; local government and social welfare; infrastructure; environment; health; agriculture and livestock; as well as defence).
The committee is expected to work closely with local governments to ensure residents relocate from high risk zones and helped to move to safer areas, and help victims of rain-induced disasters receive emergency relief and other necessary support.
While we have long been warned against impending destructive rains as a result of increasingly changing weather patterns – thanks in large part to global warming –, there has generally been slow response on the ground to prevent dire consequences of extreme weather conditions.
For instance, while the Government has made numerous appeals to residents who dwell in high risk zones to relocate to safer areas, few have actually moved, many of them arguing that they were unable to find alternative homes by themselves and insisted they can only relocate with government support.
True, some may be too poor to afford themselves a new home, but many were largely reluctant to relocate from areas they have called home for generations or were simply unconvinced that we could experience the kind of deadly rains we have witnessed over the last couple of weeks.
Now that we have learnt the hard way and seen how unpredictable Mother Nature can be, there is certainly no room for complacency.
The newly established inter-ministerial committee should urgently work closely with local government authorities with the goal of seeing to it that no more life is lost as a result of inaction and recklessness.
In addition, the inter-ministerial committee should not only attend to emergency cases and other anticipated immediate impacts of the heavy rains, but it should also help come up with a long-term strategy to mitigate the consequences of natural disasters in general.
Let the recent devastation be the catalyst that catapults us into action with view to preventing avoidable losses in the future.