Yesterday was the International Day for Disaster Reduction. Globally, the day was held under the theme, ‘Home Safe Home: Reducing Exposure, Reducing Displacement’, while in Rwanda, it was marked under the theme, “Disaster Free Home, Our Aim and Responsibility.”
Speaking on the eve of the event, the Minister for Disaster Preparedness and Refugee Affairs, Jeanne d’Arc Debonheur, urged collaboration among different stakeholders, including communities, in preventing and mitigating the impact of disasters across the country.
Disasters, especially floods, have caused havoc in the country this year, killing at least 52 people and injuring over 100 others, while they also flattened 127 houses and partially destroyed more than 4000 others. The disasters also destroyed some 2,000 hectares of crops, killed 125 livestock, destroyed 23 bridges and 160 classroom blocks, while they also blocked five water channels, and uprooted 68 electrical poles. Also destroyed were 16 administrative offices, 27 churches and two health facilities.
Rwanda is prone to disasters largely due to its topography and human activities, while the effects of the ever-changing and increasingly unpredictable climate are also taking their toll.
As a result, the country does not only lose life but also billions in ruined property. Heavy rains also result into soil erosion which means loss of fertile soils with far-reaching consequences.
The negative consequences of disasters cannot be overstated. While we may not be in position to prevent certain disasters, some are actually avoidable or we can at least mitigate their impact.
But for that to happen there is need to adopt a coherent strategy and action plan that involves all the facets of society, including the central government, local governments, civil society, private sector, ordinary citizens, among others. This calls for proper coordination and collaboration as well as a strong sense of ownership across the board.
Furthermore, disaster response is very important but equally critical is preparedness. By actively investing in actions that prevent or lessen the impact of disasters, we are making families safer and the world a better place.
Safety should be everyone’s concern. As such, it’s unacceptable that people who have capacity to move from disaster zones to safer areas have remained put despite the fact that we continue to lose lives to disasters. Authorities need to mobilise all the resources to assist the poor who dwell in disaster zones but cannot afford to relocate on their own, to move into safer areas.
This is a matter of life and death and needs to be addressed as soon as possible. As well as the ministry in charge of disasters, districts have a central role to play in all this. And actors at the grassroots, including the people, need to cooperate unreservedly in the effort to find a lasting solution.