Ghana: International Day for Disaster Reduction - - 2019

press release

Nobody bargains for disasters yet they happen anyway. Parents see their children off to school with the hope of meeting at home by the close of the day only to hear that the school building has collapsed, killing and injuring some of the pupils.

The recent report of two pupils killed and six others injured when a school building at Dzorwulu, a suburb in Accra collapsed sent chills on the spine of parents and sympathizers. We often hear of storms hitting communities and ripping off roofs of homes and schools thereby rendering hundreds homeless.

Some disasters are avoidable, particularly those caused by human actions such as disposing of refuse into drains, building on waterways, indiscriminate felling of trees and using poor quality materials in a building.

On the other hand, there are natural disasters that we have little or no control over. These are Hurricanes, Torrential rains, Lightening, Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Volcanos, and the like.

No one is exempted from disaster and that is the more reason we must be concerned and do whatever we can to mitigate the effect on humans and the environment. One could recall the 2011 Tsunami on the coast of Tohoku, Japan that engulfed tourists and holidaymakers. The earthquake and the Tsunami of the pacific coast claimed 15,897 deaths, 6,157 injured and 2,532 people missing. The total damage cost 360 billion US dollars according to the United Nations report.

The June 3, 2015 fire and flood disaster in Ghana that sent the nation into a state of shock and mourning also claimed about 200 lives, 40 seriously injured and 28 minor injuries.

The United Nations General Assembly has designated October 13, as International Day for Disaster. The Day is set aside to promote a global culture of disaster reduction, including disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness.

In Ghana, the National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) under the Ministry of Interior is the government agency responsible for the management of disasters as well as other emergencies. Established in 1996, NADMO also coordinates the resources of government institutions to develop the capacity of a voluntary communities-based organisation to respond effectively to disasters or similar emergencies. It is therefore not out of place that the Director-General of (NADMO), Mr. Eric Nana Agyeman-Prempeh has called for consolidated efforts and the pooling of resources by national emergency response institutions to effectively manage disaster situation.

The theme for the 2019 International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction is Reduction Disaster Damage to Critical Infrastructure and Disruption of Basic Services. The theme is centred on Sendai Framework, target (d) of the Sendai seven campaign launched in 2016.

Its focus is on critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services, particularly, health and educational facilities.

Given the high death tolls, notably in Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Hurricanes, great care must be taken to ensure that schools and hospitals are built to last and to contain the situation in the course of disaster. Other infrastructures such as energy, water supply facilities, telecommunication, bridges and the like are also to be taken care of.

The World Bank estimates that disasters cost the global economy 520 billion US dollars and push 26 million people into poverty every year.

Disaster risk reduction is everybody's business. From policymakers to school children. In that sense, we are all prone to it. The theme, focusing on infrastructure, puts a huge responsibility on the built industry- surveyors, planners, building and electrical engineers, hydraulic engineers, architects and artisans like masons, carpenters and others in the industry.

Their work starts with testing of soil, planning and siting of the building and the quality of building materials. Besides, qualified human resource is paramount for enforcement and proper supervision. It is incumbent on building contractors to engage the services of the right caliber of artisans and qualified engineers. When personnel in the built industry adhere to best practices there will be fewer destruction during disasters.

The general public also has a role to play. Strict adherence to building regulations and sanitation by-laws will go a long way to help reduce these disasters.

It is worthy to note that building in waterways and flood-prone areas is like digging one's own grave or throwing a ball at a wall. It will surely come back to you in the long run and at a great cost. Low lying settlements should be well planned and have proper drainage systems to reduce flooding during heavy rainfall.

Trees serve as windbreaks, therefore, tree planting should be a regular exercise by residents of communities, schools, churches, mosques and other interest groups. It is rather unfortunate that a lot of people use concrete for their entire compound without leaving any space for gardening and also allowing rainwater to sip into the soil. The list goes on and on.

A call by the Director-Generall of the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), Mr. Eric Nana Agyeman- Prempeh for the establishment of a well-resourced sub-regional emergency response team capable to mitigate the impact of disasters in member countries is timely and action must be taken now.

Disasters are no respecter of persons so let us do our part to reduce the risks associated with it.

The writer is a staff of Information Service Department (ISD)

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