20 September 2017

Cameroon: Need for Coordinated Action

The scars of destruction caused by the series of landslides and floods ignited by perpetual heavy rain in some parts of Cameroon are yet to heal. At the time Cameroonians expected the situation to subside; fresh reports of new catastrophes continue to flow in. After the landslide in Santchou came the one in Lebialem, that of Nguti, floods in Yaounde, Douala and Garoua. The results have been quite devastating; destruction of family homes, cocoa and coffee farms in the case of catastrophes in the West and South West Regions, and sweeping away of human beings. Continuous rain in the West, North West, South West and Littoral regions remains a topic of concern not only for climatologists but also for the administration that has to grapple with rehabilitating the affected population. A disaster, it is important to note, is a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society involving widespread human, material, economic, or environmental losses and impacts that exceed the ability of the affected community to cope using its own resources. It is for this reason that countries including those that rarely experience disasters build up programmes and projects that enhance disaster management. The whole issue does not only have to do with managing the consequences of disaster but finding ways of preventing their occurrences and reducing the risk involved. Cameroon as a country that has recorded disasters, both natural and man-made, in the past has no reason to falter when such disasters do occur. It is true several structures have been created to handle such disasters but from every indication, each of these institutions seems to be working virtually in isolation. Cameroon does not have a national disaster management structure and a national platform for disaster risk reduction. Disaster related activities are rather lumped together with other civil protection responsibilities of the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization. Government interventions are more reactive than proactive. There is an absence of coordinated action from various structures such as the department of Civil Protection, the Red Cross Society and the Fire Brigade all of which intervene during disasters. That notwithstanding, the present dispensation is bureaucratic, financially burdensome, and does not really achieve the essential goals of disaster reduction in saving lives and reducing vulnerability. It is therefore necessary to set up a permanent disaster management unit with regional and local structures independent of other branches of the Department of Disaster and Emergency Services of MINATD and with each level exercising a significant degree of operative autonomy.


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