There’s a transition in approach, from response to preparedness by ensuring timely access to and use of accurate information to guide decision-making
Growing effects of climate change are expected to bring floods, prolonged dry spells, disease and conflicts in East Africa, in what countries have been warned could potentially be a catastrophic 2022.
According to the INFORM Risk Index 2022 – which identifies countries at risk of humanitarian crises and natural disasters that could overwhelm national response capacity – East African countries are ranked at the highest risk of “humanitarian crises that are more likely to require international assistance.”
Of the 190 countries surveyed, Somalia is top, followed by South Sudan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Chad to complete the top five. The DR Congo is seventh, Ethiopia 12th, Sudan at 15. Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda are ranked 21, 22, 27, 37 and 61, respectively.
The report was the focus of the National Preparedness Dialogue, hosted by Uganda’s ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Relief and Refugees in Munyonyo, recently. It was attended by officials from the ministry and civil society organisations; FAO, the World Food Programme, the World Bank, the European Union, USAID and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The objective was to discuss the roadmap, a Disaster Risk Management plan for preparedness, as the country braces for yet another year of volatility.
“We used to have bi-annual natural disasters but the impact of climate change has put many communities at risk of annual disasters,” Esther Anyakun, Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Relief and Refugees, said.
A new Disaster Risk Management plan was in its final stages, and will be submitted to parliament in December.
Antonio Querido, the FAO Representative in Uganda, said; “While Uganda was spared the full impact of the devastation in the Horn of Africa, this experience highlighted the vulnerability to hazards that threaten the food security and livelihoods and the need to increase national preparedness. The nature of hazards is changing and our approach ought to evolve as well.”
In the past two years, Uganda has grappled with the Covid-19, uncharacteristic flooding, prolonged droughts, invasion of desert locusts and terrorist attacks.
From Reactive to proactive
In the previous years, Uganda has been responding – often ineptly – to disasters way too late. In 2020, the Desert Locust Livelihoods Impact Assessment Report said, the locust invasion affected the food security and livelihoods of 749,515 households in the Acholi, Elgon, Karamoja, Lango and Teso sub-regions.
Anyakun said Uganda must shift from traditional methods of response to disasters to more resilient ones, most importantly preventive measures such as strengthening information systems.
“We have not had a coordinated approach to disaster management. Now the government is working with various NGOs to come up with a holistic approach for when disasters happen.”