Liberia Embarks On Disaster Risk Management Framework

-- As Gov't, UNDP engage locals on disaster risk management

Changing climate and the rapidly growing exposure to disaster risk presents the world with an unprecedented challenge, with every nation practically being affected to the extent that Liberia and many other underdeveloped or third-world countries are the most vulnerable to the impacts of the climate change menace.

As such, Liberia is gradually bracing itself for the rages that climate change is having across the globe as its devastating impacts continues effect millions of people.

Liberia is facing some serious environmental challenges, including coastal erosion, flooding and windstorms and others, and therefore, the need for the country to develop a framework for disaster management cannot be overemphasized, says Augustine Tamba, Director for Operations, National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA).

To help establish a national disaster management framework, the government, through the NDMA, has therefore begin engaging local stakeholders to raise awareness and disseminate the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience Strategy (NDRR&RS) of Liberia, and Strategies and Action Plans for Coastal Adaptation in the country.

With support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Mr. Tamba said that the NDMA has begun nationwide consultative efforts to engage residents on disastrous things in their community. The process began in Tubmanburg, Bomi County, where stakeholders from the Western region (Bomi, Cape Mount and Gbarpolu counties) converged for a two-day workshop.

NDMA project officer, Jonathan Wordsworth, said the workshop is meant to widen citizens' participation and solicit local inputs to the strategy and trigger community ownership by utilizing the whole community approach.

"This engagement is meant to present the National Disaster Risk Reduction (NDRR&RS) to local authorities, and community leaders, while providing an explicit understanding of what the document is, and what is expected of them," he said.

This is also meant to reaffirm hotspots and hazards identified in the communities and documented in the strategy.

Organizers also said that it is also meant to present the final report of the coastal assessment conducted recently by the National Adaptation Project (NAP) to the local participants mainly of the coastal counties. "This is to build capacity on disaster risk reduction and coastal adaptation.

The UNDP is working with the NDMA to put into operation a comprehensive disaster management plans, especially for climate related disaster such as flooding, windstorm and coastal erosion.

According to the organizers, the key output of this is to strengthen adaptive capacity, and reduce exposure to climate risks of vulnerable livelihoods, and infrastructure in the vulnerable communities with funding from the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

Under this engagement, local stakeholders, government officials and UNDP are working to ensure that the design of the NDRR and National Adaptation Plan (NAP) are tailored to the specific climate change needs of the communities, the Disaster Risk Management Expert at the UNDP, Fairnoh T. Gbilah, said.

"UNDP are providing critical contributions to tackle climate change adaptation and disaster risk management," he said.

"A number of pressing development challenges exist, but we need to take actions now to reduce threats of climate change-exacerbated floods, coastal erosion and windstorms," Gbilah said.

Climate projections for Liberia suggest that the risks will increase over time, which can potentially undermine development progress in the country. According to Gbilah, this is the situation that the country must start to address now.

These initiatives include working with individual sectors to incorporate DRR into sector policies and legislation; the adoption and refinement of legal instruments that support DRR at the local level; analysis of decentralization processes and identification of entry-points for DRR; promotion of civil society involvement in disaster risk management (DRM) coordination bodies.

Many Liberians are of the belief that the Ebola virus disease epidemic that ravaged Liberia in 2014 and claimed thousands of lives, did not have any positive impact on the country. It is the desire of stakeholders to now be proactive in putting in place measures that would help address future disasters. People are now putting into place plans to address disaster or disaster-related preparedness.

It is in this light that the UNDP has been collaborating with NDMA, and other local stakeholders in strengthening disaster risk management.

"UNDP has made strengthening disaster risk governance a cornerstone of its efforts to understand, reduce and manage risk," an official said.

The official added that governance should be recognized as a key unresolved issue in both the configuration, and the reduction of disaster risk. "This is with the aim of protecting development investments and ultimately building people's resilience," he added.

The purpose of the NDMP is to provide a policy framework that promotes a whole-of-country, and multi-sector approach to disaster risk management at a local, national and regional level.

It also provides a framework and mechanism to enable a coordinated national response to threats that have the potential to cause a disaster and recovery from the impacts of disasters.

Meanwhile, the national action plan for disaster risk management, which is being developed, is an operational document that should be read in conjunction with the National Disaster Management Plan. It provides a day-to-day guide for operations and a monitoring, evaluation and learning framework to assess performance and advance accountability of disaster management.

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