Plans are afoot to develop a comprehensive disaster management program in The Gambia as the world continues to witness an upsurge in the number of natural and man-made disasters.
With the ultimate objective of integrating disaster risk management and reduction into national policies and programs, The Gambia is currently striving towards improving national capacities to anticipate, manage and respond to disasters through the establishment of a national institution and local level structures. One of the major obstacles that affected disaster management policies in the past is the dominant approach to disaster response.
“The debate is now moving from the idea of a basic diagnosis of relief operation to a more proactive strategy of disaster prevention. And we also look at it from the perspective of economic development, MDGs, and poverty reduction. Disaster can militate against development, reinforce poverty, and retard the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals,” said Essa Khan in an exclusive interview with The Point.
According to Mr Khan, coordinator of the National Disaster Management Office, world governments have, during a world conference on disaster reduction held in Japan, agreed on the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 as a comprehensive, action-oriented response to international concern about disaster impacts on communities and national development in general.
“The Gambian government, being sensitive to this, had to launch a strategy mitigation appeal to the UNDP for the development of a comprehensive disaster management framework in The Gambia and, of course, this appeal has culminated in the establishment of the UNDP - supported national disaster management project in order to achieve the strategic objectives stated above,” said Khan.
“In order to achieve these broad objectives, an enabling environment has to be created through policy development, capacity and local ownership,” he added.
Mr Khan revealed that a draft policy has been developed on wider stakeholder input. “ A vision and focus for disaster management in The Gambia are clearly outlined in the policy paper which points out the direction for delivery of expected community and sustainable output.
“It also establishes the strategic priorities and targets to guide and inform practices, and highlights the need to institutionalize disaster risk reduction approaches in national development and planning strategies.”
According to him, a comprehensive strategic action-plan is being developed. It focuses on key program intervention areas such as making disaster risk-management a development priority, decentralization of disaster management and structures at regional and community levels, developing and improving on early warning systems, community-based disaster risk reduction and management, as well as effective collaboration and partnership building with institutions and agencies.
“In addition to the policy, a draft disaster management bill has been finalized with the support of UNDP for the enactment by the National Assembly after the usual administrative procedures,” Mr Khan posited.
He concluded that disaster management is a multi-sectoral and transversal issue acting as protection of development gains.