7 January 2013

Nigeria: NEMA Adopts New Strategy Against Disaster

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Sunday said it was intensifying the use of youth volunteers and non-governmental organisations as part of its strategy to tackle disasters in the country.

The agency's Head of Public Relations, Mr. Yushau Shuaib, told THISDAY that the agency had embarked on the recruitment and training of more volunteers to help improve its capacity and readiness to respond to emergency situations in the rural areas.

"We are recruiting volunteers across the country, especially within the disaster prone areas so that they can assist the agency in carrying out sensitisation of the communities as well as in immediate response to disaster incidents," he said.

He said NEMA was also exploring partnership initiatives with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to assist in the distribution of relief materials and other humanitarian interventions for disaster victims.

Following the recent massive flooding that ravaged 19 states of the federation and caused extensive damage to properties, farm lands and human lives, NEMA said the country's resources and response capacity were seriously over-stretched.

The situation forced the Federal Government to launch an appeal for N200 billion to assist in providing relief interventions to the victims.

Shuaib who spoke with THISDAY on phone, said the disaster management agency was also exploring a collaborative initiative with credible NGOs in the country to assist in the effective sensitisation of the people as well as ensuring proper distribution of relief materials to disaster victims.

He said some of the NGOs with verifiable capacities may be involved as part of advance preparations against emergency occurrences.

According to him, the decision to embark on the new initiatives came as a result of the lessons learnt from last year's devastating flood incident which to a great extent had exposed the gross inadequacies of the country's emergency management structure.

Shuaib explained that during the flood incident, it was discovered that most of the local communities suffered greatly from the flooding because they could not get needed assistance in good time due to the absence of or non-functional emergency management structure at the both the state and local government levels.

He said the agency found it extremely difficult to get to some of the communities affected by flood due to the terrain and distance.

According to him, some of these communities took rescue officials as much as five hours to locate them thereby denying victims the needed help.

The NEMA spokesman gave example of the case of the Ibeji community in Kogi State where he said it took rescue officers many hours to get to the victims.

"We intend to utilise the assistance of the volunteers to reach out to disaster prone areas to disseminate warning alerts to the locals and NEMA will also deploy them to quickly intervene during disaster emergencies in communities located in the hinterland," he said.

The Director General of NEMA, Alhaji Muhammed Sani-Sidi, had warned about a looming humanitarian danger if another flood disaster occurs without proactive measures taken to prepare against such incidents.

Speaking during an interactive session with journalists at the weekend in Abuja, Sanni-Sidi expressed concern over the lack of emergency management mechanism in most states and local government areas, warning that it portends serious danger should another flood disaster occurs.

"We might still find ourselves in a similar situation because now we have people going back to the flood plane area and when the flood disaster comes again, it will still affect them. The flood plane is a natural water way and you cannot just go and block it and you expect that it will flow there," he said.

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