Disaster management key to saving lives

The 2012 report by Global Humanitarian Assistance (GHA) which was released recently, provides a comprehensive picture on humanitarian funding in disaster torn areas, and in particular, stresses that both Haiti and Pakistan received 42 percent of the total humanitarian aid whereas other areas like the Horn of Africa, experienced a reduction in the volumes of funds.

The 2012 report by Global Humanitarian Assistance (GHA) which was released recently, provides a comprehensive picture on humanitarian funding in disaster torn areas, and in particular, stresses that both Haiti and Pakistan received 42 percent of the total humanitarian aid whereas other areas like the Horn of Africa, experienced a reduction in the volumes of funds.

“The ability and willingness of the international response system to heed early warnings and to respond to humanitarian needs in a timely fashion is called into question by the slow funding response to the Horn of Africa food crisis,” the report reads in part.

 “Just 28 percent of the UN funding appeal requirements for Somalia had been met by June 2011, weeks before famine was declared.”

The GHA report details that the level of funding shot up, standing at 10 percent higher in 2011 than in 2007.

38 percent of appeals for funding made by the UN went up in 2011 and in the same year, there was a drop of 9 percent, to US$17.1 billion, in humanitarian aid provided by governments and private donors in 2011.

According to the Justin Kayira, Director in charge of Disaster Preparedness in the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness and Refugee Affairs, the findings spell bad news considering the increasingly uncertain and frequent conflicts and natural disasters in the world.

“Instant and well equipped reaction towards disasters should be increasing by the day and it is unfortunate that it is instead decreasing. Whenever there is delayed reaction when a disaster of whichever magnitude occurs, the loss is overwhelming,” Kayira told this newspaper in an interview.

“Humanitarian aid therefore, whether by the UN or by governments and private players, should be timely and well spread in all regions, so that people in poorer nations don’t feel left out”.

He, however, advised that countries should always be ready and well prepared to face disasters rather than hope on humanitarian aid which is sometimes not timely.

“In Rwanda, we have made it a priority to be disaster prepared; even with limited resources, we have ensured that the most prominent disasters in our country, such as floods and mudslides, do not have a large impact on the communities,” he explained.

“We have disaster management units in all sectors that help to communicate and coordinate activities when disasters occur. These activities usually involve the police, army and the Ministry of Health so that efforts to save people’s lives and property are prioritised:”

Rwanda has suffered its share of natural disasters, including mudslides, floods and earthquakes. One of country’s most recent major natural disasters occurred in March 2008, when an earthquake shook the districts of Rusizi and Nyamasheke, killing 39 people and destroying infrastructure to the tune of Rwf 5.5 billion.

Response by the government was, however, commendable whereby most of the infrastructure, including schools and hospitals were relocated to safer areas.

In May this year, the government set up a Disaster Steering Technical Committee that is charged with coordinating disaster mitigation activities in the country.

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