Rethink disaster strategies

Wednesday March 20 2019

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Once again, floods are wreaking havoc in southern Africa with South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Angola and Zambia recording several fatalities.

The tropical cyclone Idai was particularly ruthless on Mozambique and Zimbabwe, where it claimed several lives and left a trail of destruction.

In the next few months, it will be the turn of Africa’s middle belt, the region on either side of the Equator, to contend with the heavy rains.

As has happened in the past, when the rains come, destruction follows. This is because of lack of preparedness.

We cannot claim total immunity from the consequences of natural disasters. Even advanced economies like the United States and Japan have oftentimes borne the brunt of natural calamities.


We must therefore sympathise and empathise with the afflicted and extend any kind of relief to them as a matter of urgency.

Nevertheless, the level of vulnerability and the predictable helplessness of most African states whenever a natural disaster comes calling leaves a lot to be desired.

It is high time African states rethought their disaster management strategies.

In particular, resources must be directed towards the programmes that minimise the impact of extreme climate and the populations sensitised on their respective roles in environmental conservation.


Simple acts like stopping the all-too-familiar theft of environment conservation funds by state functionaries, guarding against encroachment on riparian lands, adhering to construction regulations, checking the wanton destruction of vegetation and restricting livestock numbers could go a long way towards guarding against natural disasters.

Indeed, the African Union has a specialised agency, the African Risk Capacity (ARC), which offers insurance against climate-related risks. However, the ARC policy uptake remains poor.