Members of the , National Assembly, on Wednesday, unanimously passed the National Disaster Management Bill 2008, at their third annual parliamentary session for the year 2008.
Tabling the bill before members of the national assembly, Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, the vice president and secretary of state for Women’s Affairs, who is also the chairperson of the National Disaster Management Committee, said the bill sets up a formal structure for integrated and coordinated disaster management for The Gambia.
This, she added, focuses on prevention, preparedness, response, mitigation and recovery in relation to disaster or emergency situations, as well as the management of the effects from such events.
Vice President Njie Saidy further informed the assembly members that the bill establishes a National Disaster Management Agency, Council, as well as Regional and Districts disaster management committees, throughout the country, in a bid to deal with disaster at the various levels.
"Also established under the bill is the office of the Executive Director to carry out the daily administrative affairs of disaster management in the country. The bill also provides for the preparation of management plans," vice president Njie-saidy stated.
She then noted that for disaster management to be effectively integrated and coordinated, planning was necessary and, as such, under the bill, disaster management plans are to be developed at the National, regional, district and the village levels.
Cognisant of the fact that in any disaster, there may be occasions when it is necessary to evacuate the inhabitants of a particular affected locality, the vice president indicated that the bill empowers the executive director to assess the potential for loss of life and injury to persons where there is a threat of hazard or where a disaster has occur in any part of the country, who shall then consult with the council, as to ordering an evacuation of inhabitants of any part of The Gambia.
She further stated that the declaration of the state of emergency to cope with the national calamity, payment and compensation are among other provisions entailed in the bill.
"Disaster funds are also established for the purpose of preventing, responding to, mitigation of, providing relief in, recovery from and rehabilitation in any threatening disaster situation or disaster, in accordance with the guidelines laid down under the National Disaster pursuant to this act.
Supporting the bill, Hon. Adama Cham, National Assembly Member for Kombo North, described it as non-controversial as no country or society is immune from disaster. The Kombo North NAM described the bill as timely, while Hon. Haddy Nyang-Jagne, the NAM for Jeshwang constituency, said the bill could not have come at a better moment than now when her constituency continued to be one of the areas in the country that witness unprecedented disaster occurrences in recent years. She indicated that three out of four wards in her constituency witnessed serious disaster occurrences over the years.
Momodou LK Sanneh, the minority leader and NAM for Kiang West, stressed the need for proper implementation of the bill, noting that the government had already spelt out everything to the cause of disaster management in the country. He then suggested the need for the involvement of parliamentarians in the implementation process, especially at the constituency level.