Disaster management and risk control experts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have reviewed the problem of weak disaster management infrastructure in the region.
The experts have also reported the disconnect between disaster management and development planning as a whole with a view to coming up with an acceptable working document in aid of a preemptive and responsive disaster control mechanism.
Dr. Fatimata Dia Sow, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, observed that the disaster management systems in a number of ECOWAS Member States were fractionalised and did not deliver in a timely and effective manner.
She was welcoming the delegates, experts and participants to the opening of the meeting to validate the Draft Model for National Emergency Management Agencies (NDMAs) for the sub-region in Accra.
Dr. Sow, who spoke through the Principal Programme Officer, (Disaster and Risk Reduction) Mr. Mohammed Ibrahim, disclosed that only a few member states had dedicated National Disaster Management Institutions charged with responding to and coordinating the elements of the disaster management cycle.
Hand in hand with a workable disaster management approach, the experts had over the years maintained that there was a need for effective collaboration with external humanitarian partners (both in institutional and field coordination terms) and also at the levels of disaster resourcing, institutional as well as technical capacity.
Recalling the approval given to the Humanitarian Policy and Plan of Action by the Heads of States of ECOWAS in 2012, the Commissioner drew attention to the directive that all Member States must ensure appropriate legal and policy frameworks for preventing and responding to emergencies and disasters.
The Policy, with its plan of Action, mandates all ECOWAS Member States to ensure the establishment of specific National Disaster Management Agencies in each country with its authority anchored at the highest level possible.
“I ask that as we consider this important document, we also take the opportunity to share our experiences and strengthen our collaboration as West African States in fashioning a way forward for our region with respect to achieving a more secure humanitarian space and hence contributing to the attainment of the goals of our region in the areas of peace, security and development,” Commissioner Sow stated, while declaring the meeting opened.
The justification for the Model stems from the prevailing circumstances where coordination of national and regional efforts has become very challenging.
With varying institutional responses, it has been found that existing capacity levels are insufficient to adequately meet key disaster management needs, especially in major crisis.
This prompted the ECOWAS Commission to set up a Task Force to draft a model to be submitted to Member States for their consideration.
The objective of the current endeavour is to ensure the creation of a National Disaster Management Agency in each Member State that is capable of intervening rapidly and effectively in disaster situations.
The Accra meeting is coming on the heels of previous regional efforts in disaster management such as the adoption of the ECOWAS Humanitarian Response Mechanism (EHRM); Disaster Risk Reduction Policy (DRR); Programme of Action for the Implementation of the ECOWAS Policy for Disaster Risk Reduction; and ECOWAS Emergency Response Team (EERT), among others.
The Draft Model for National Disaster Management Agencies is expected to be adopted by the Ministers of Member States in charge.
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