21 December 2012

Nigeria: NEMA - Flood Disaster Overwhelmed Our Capacity

Abuja — The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Thursday said the country's resources and response capacity were seriously over-stretched by the magnitude of the recent massive flooding that ravaged 19 states of the federation.

The agency likened the magnitude of the Bayalsa flood as almost close to what occurred in Haiti where earthquake nearly made the entire country impassable.

The Director-General of NEMA, Alhaji Muhammed Sanni-Sidi, who was represented by Deputy Director, Planning, Mallam Alhassan, at a media training retreat in Abuja, said the Federal Government had to seek the assistance of global institutions to deal with the humanitarian crisis that accompanied the flood disaster.

"The country's resources were over-stretched by the scope and nature of the flood. The government has to even call in the UN systems to come and assist in rescue and disaster management efforts, " he said.

He also pointed at the apparent gaps in coordination among various disaster response agencies in the country.

As part of the efforts to assist flood victims to recover from the disaster which claimed many lives and damaged properties and farmlands, N17 billion was approved by President Goodluck Jonathan in addition to the monies raised from various donors.

Alhassan said the lack of capacity became very evident following the massive nature of the flooding which required huge amount of resources and expertise to manage.

He said there was the need for the country's response capacity to be enhanced and strengthened.

With regard to the helpless situation which most of the flood victims faced, Alhassan said the agency actually tried to alert the people living in the affected areas but that responses from states were not as expected.

"If we look at all the indices of response you can see that we considered the checklist before the outbreak of the flood.The early warning mechanisms were actually there. For instance, NIMET made its prediction and consistently, the Federal Ministry of Environment also sent out warnings and alert signals.

Speaking on the level of preparations before the flood, the Deputy Director recalled that when NIMET made it prediction, NEMA gathered all response agencies to work out appropriate response interventions to all those at risk.

"So we tried to draw up a checklist and to follow the checklist even before the flood came but it came in a quantum we never expected. For both NEMA, the line ministries and security agencies, the flood went beyond our calculations.

"Of course the experience gathered from the flooding around the country, has once more exposed the existing capacity gaps and poor coordination among the disaster response agencies, " he said.

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