30 April 2013

Uganda: World Bank Hails Uganda On Disaster Policy

Kampala — World Bank disaster risk management specialist, Francis Muraya has lauded Uganda for being one of the African countries that is ahead in implementing disaster policies.

He said most African countries don't have fully-fledged ministries of disaster preparedness like Uganda does.

He also made it clear that Uganda has made significant strides in responding to disaster strikes through a disaster-emergency-response policy.

The specialist was speaking during the opening of a disaster management international conference at Lake Victoria Serena Hotel on Monday.

Uganda is prone to a multitude of natural and human-induced disasters that impact on human lives by causing death, destruction of infrastructure, property, livelihoods and setting back socio-economic development.

Bududa district in the eastern part of the country has been centre-stage in recent deadly disasters.

In 2010, about 100 people were reported killed in a landslide that was triggered by heavy rain in the district. Scores were displaced, which prompted government to swing into swift action to resettle them.

The Uganda Red Cross Society in 2011 declared Bududa a disaster area after landslides left people injured and scores others homeless.

Just mid-last year, two villages were buried in yet another catastrophe that hit the same region.

And it is not just floods that have proved a problem for some parts of the country. Cases of drought here and there, especially in the northern corridor have in the past robbed many of their lives, animals, as well as livelihoods.

With that in mind, Muraya's emphasis is that there is an urgent need for a paradigm shift in the country's response to climatic extremes.

He feels there is need to enhance resilience of vulnerable communities against looming natural disasters.

The chairperson of disaster parliamentary platform, MP Alex Byarugaba called for the training of lawmakers in disaster management since they legislate and appropriate the budget.

Byarugaba appealed to government to install early warning systems.

"Uganda's early warning system is so poor, [that] sometimes we have to depend on Nairobi," said the MP.

Risk reduction

Meanwhile, State minister of refugees and disaster preparedness, Musa Ecweru said government has deployed disaster risk-reduction officers in disaster-prone areas in the country.

"We are getting bad floods, landslides, storms and frequent lightning bolts. Therefore, we need to have disasters officers in these areas in case disaster strikes," Ecweru told World Bank representatives, disaster specialists, MPs resident district commissioners and disaster management officers.

In Acholi-Lango sub-region the officers will be based in Gulu while in Teso region the officers will be stationed in Mbale and for Karamoja in Moroto.

For western Uganda, the disaster officers will be stationed in Fort Portal and Mbarara while in the central region the officers are based in Masaka.

Ecweru said that government is setting up disaster risk-reduction centres in all the 112 districts.

He made the remarks during the opening of disaster international workshop on Learning from Mega Disasters-the Great East Japan Earthquake and implementing lessons learnt in Uganda.

He called for the training of district leaders in disaster issues.

"It is extremely critical to train district leaders in disaster risk reduction so as to form disaster committees in the districts," Ecweru said.

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