BY REBECCA NABATANZI SSERWANGA –

The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) in partnership with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) organised an online dialogue on managing multiple disasters amidst Covid 19. The inaugural dialogue brought together over 100 stakeholders from government agencies, academia, civil society, local government, private sector, development partners, youth representatives among others. Officiated upon by the Minister of State for Relief and Disaster Preparedness, Hon.Musa Ecweru and the UNDP Resident Representative, Ms Elsie Attafuah, the purpose of the dialogue was to discuss the role of stakeholders in multi-sectoral and integrated crises response. This comes at a time when Uganda is faced with a number of disasters including floods, landslides, locusts and Covid-19.

Webinar Photo

In his opening remarks, Hon Musa Ecweru highlighted the need for: collective efforts in addressing disasters; tangible proposals to inform policy and implementation, early warning and government commitment to addressing disasters. ‘We need things that can work.’’ Among the government commitments cited was the need to redesign the National Food Security Policy; and inclusion or engagement of relevant institutions in disaster preparedness and Management for example the National Environment Management Authority(NEMA), the National Forestry Authority (NFA) and the Fire Rescue Services among others. In conclusion, he thanked UNDP for its support to the National Emergency Coordination and Operations Centre (NECOC) and called for enhancing its services and putting up vibrant district level institutional mechanisms to address disasters.

The UNDP Resident representative thanked government for its commitment to addressing disasters exemplified in the development of the National Risk Atlas for risk informed decision making; establishment of the NECOC and establishment of the Contingency Fund. She highlighted UNDP’s priorities within the COVID 19 context and next programme cycle which included: increased investment in digital solutions; insurance and risk financing; multi-sectoral approach in addressing disasters; analysis of return on investment in disaster management and enhancing nature based solutions.

In her remarks, the Ag. Commissioner of Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Management, Ms Rose Nakabugo highlighted the need for a development approach to addressing disasters. She noted that disasters have the potential of undoing decades of development gains thereby retarding growth.

The UNDP Team Leader for Disaster Risk Reduction in Africa highlighted some of the challenges to response and recovery. These included: the effect of combined risks on reducing the ability to engage in social distancing, inaccessibility to affected communities; global disruptions in supply chains making access to chemicals to spray locusts difficult; and the fact that national preparedness systems are currently tested.

Some of the comments and ways forwards from the dialogue were:

  • The need to strengthen NECOC to enable timely response to disasters.
  • The importance of moving beyond addressing emergencies to include recovery and building resilience
  • Enforcement of laws and policies
  • Mainstreaming of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in all sectors
  • Improving incomes through disaster risk financing
  • Harnessing South to South cooperation
  • Leveraging Digital solutions
  • Partnerships with CSOs, Youths, Private Sector, Religious and Traditional leaders
  • Scaling up early warning innovations
  • Addressing systemic risks within communities and this calls for defining contexts- defining who the most vulnerable are, offering social protection
  • COVID 19 should be taken as an opportunity to advance the disaster agenda so as to catalyse investments in DRR. There is a need to have a presidential initiative for disasters
  • The Double Shock Effect: important to recognise that both disaster and pandemic effects go down to the household
  • The need for a Disaster law to streamline disaster efforts and protect first-line responders
  • Communication and Advocacy remain very key
  • Need to build capacities for DRR especially at the local level.

Sharing lessons learnt from the recent Kasese floods, Mr Vian Mukisa from Kasese Local Government stressed the need for building district level capacities to address DRR. ‘’Kasese district has developed a District Disaster Management Plan, District Disaster Management Committee and these have been cascaded to one of the villages. From the recent floods, it was observed that the impact was less in this village since early warning was in place and communities were able to move to safer places before.’’

In closing, the UNDP Resident Representative thanked members for attending the inaugural webinar and reiterated the need for data and analytics in DRR, the need to strengthen government systems especially at district level; ability to forecast which has in the past averted a number of disasters; domestic resource mobilisation and finally the opportunities to mainstream DRR presented by the third National Development Plan (NDPIII).