11 December 2012

Rwanda: New Initiative to Address Disaster Response Delays

The Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs yesterday launched an initiative that will further simplify the reporting of disasters across the country.

It will effectively contribute and build on the effectiveness of disaster management teams

The move is expected to contribute to community involvement in disaster response mechanisms through trainings to create a strong network in communities.

Through the new arrangement, there will be a person in every sector charged with the responsibility of reporting every day if there is disaster or not at the district or at the national level.

Launching the strategy in Bugesera district, Eastern Province, Justin Kayira, the director of disaster management and programme coordinator at MIDIMAR, said that the initiative will effectively contribute and build on the effectiveness of disaster management teams.

"It has been a challenge in getting first hand information concerning disasters, and this has most of the time caused severe loss as the response has always been determined by the time information reaches response teams," said Kayira.

He also observed that at national or provincial level, there have been situations or cases that have been reported after days. Phones have been distributed in all the 416 sectors, and trainings will be conducted to provide basic reporting skills.

The phones are connected to the server at MIDIMAR, and will also be used to send signals to other disaster management response teams. This is in line with sharing information to alert neighboring areas so as to minimise effects of disasters.

During the launch, 30 community members selected in the sectors of Bugesera district started the training. Others to follow are from districts including Nyabihu, Burera, Rustiro, Burera and Rulindo. The training programme will be enrolled across the country.

Louis Rwagaju, the Mayor of Bugesera district, said the new strategy will help the districts, to play their respective roles.

However, Rwagaju warned residents against poor construction, saying that serious measures will be taken against such practices.

He noted that although strong disasters can cause negative effects including loss of life and property, there are situations when residents take risks.

"Our houses or any structure that houses people or lives, should be built putting in mind that disasters can come any time; so we must make it a point to build strong houses," Rwagaju said.

The latest initiative comes shortly after government set up a special task force on disaster management and response, which comprises of officials from the ministries of local government, defence, agriculture, infrastructure, natural resources and disaster management.

Natural disasters including landslides, heavy rains and thunder storms among others are the most common. Of recent, disasters claimed 26 people, and destroyed 205 hectares of farmland in different parts of the country in a period of two months, according to the ministry.

The special force disaster management team recently told the media that Rubavu and Rusizi districts in the Western Province and Rwamagana in the Eastern Province were the most affected.

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