Checkmating Disaster

13 Nov 2012

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Following the flood that ravaged about 21 states across the country recently, Toba Suleiman writes that National Emergency Management Agency is taking proactive steps against future occurrence

Worried by the enormous havoc the recent disasters of various forms in the country have wrecked, the management of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has taken its awareness campaign beyond the shores of the usual stakeholders, by involving the little children, especially the school children.

In the recent past, the campaign about how best to tackle all forms of disasters, including flood, rain storm, fire and several others have been restricted to stakeholders alone, who are mostly, the fire service men, the Police, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), the Civil Defence Corps, Red Cross Society and several other organisations and individuals.

However, NEMA said it came up with the noble idea of involving children in the awareness campaign strategy to equip the children with the methodologies of managing disasters whenever it occurs within their immediate environment.

The agency lamented that it is true that there are several fire fighting equipment hanging around strategically in most of the offices, public institutions, banks, schools as well as inside vehicles, but the people conspicuously lacked the knowledge about how to operate them when suddenly fire disasters occurred.

Therefore, while inaugurating the Ekiti State chapter of the Disasters Risk Reduction (DRR) during a one-day workshop in Ado-Ekiti, the Agency  disclosed that it has so far trained over 2,500 secondary school pupils as members of the DRR Clubs across 30 states of the federation.

According to the Director General of the Agency, Mohammed Sani Sidi , pointed out that, the inauguration, which started about 10 months ago, has been carried out in about 900 secondary schools in the country.

While inaugurating the Ekiti State chapter of the pupils DRR Club, held at the Christ Girls School , Ado-Ekiti, involved about 150 pupils from five secondary schools in the state including Government College , Iyin-Ekiti, Government College , Ayede-Ekiti and Moba Grammar School .

Represented by the Assistant Zonal Coordinator of the agency in the Southwest, Mr. Babatunde Adebiyi said that the purpose of establishing this club in schools was to reduce risks associated with emergencies.   

According to him, teaching students on how to prepare for emergency situations and how to prevent them would assist in reducing the rate of disasters and deaths associated with it.

Sidi said, “ Disasters and disaster risk is on the rise. Children represent about 60 per cent of those affected by death, injuries and diseases from conditions that are exacerbated by disasters. Disasters also disrupt education.”

The director general said that NEMA, in collaboration with the State Emergency Management Agency was training the pupils and teachers and providing first aids kits to them to know how what to do during emergencies.

The NEMA boss said that the agency believed that children should be centrally engaged in reducing the risk of disasters to reduce the impacts on communities.

He pointed out that the voluntary club like DRT is an avenue for children and youths in Ekiti State to help in preventing and mitigating disaster occurrence in their environment. 

Also, the Senior Fire Superintendent at the Ekiti State Fire Service, Mr. Olusola Famosaya , who taught the pupils fire fighting techniques, told journalists that the approach of catching them young would assist in prompt response to emergency situations.

He said that it was good that the pupils were exposed to learning fire fighting methods because fire outbreaks constituted the larger percentage of disasters in the country.

He noted that with this approach, students and teachers would know how to handle fire fighting equipment al ready provided by the state government in public schools. 

Famosaya lamented that despite that there were some fire fighting equipment in some schools or even in some government offices; the students don’t know how to operate them to fight fire disasters.

He maintained that these current efforts would prepare the pupils ahead of any possible out break of disasters in their environment.

However, the resource person, who delivered the workshop paper, Dr A.J Olatunji (Associate Professor), Department of Geography and Planning Sciences, Ekiti State University, EKSU, described disaster as a serious disruption of functioning of a community or society causing widespread human, material, economic, social or environmental losses which exceed the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources.

In the paper, entitled, “The Role of Students in Disaster Risk Reduction,” which was organized by NEMA in collaboration with the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Olatunji also described DRR as any measure that reduces the likelihood and potentials disaster to occur, reduces of the severity of actual incidences of disaster, or allows recovery from the consequences of undesired events.

According to him, various disasters which include, floods (landslides/slope instability), erosion (soil)-slope failures, Coaster erosion (drought), Tidal waves (desertification) are mostly common in our environment

The rest according to him, include volcanic eruption (tropical cyclones), Tsunamis (typhoons/hurricanes, weather hazards (climate change), earthquakes (ozone depletion, pollution (subsidence), mass movement/wasting (land degradation)  Oil spillage (shoreline retrogression).

Speaking on the organizations and people involved in disaster management, Olatunji noted that the magnitude, frequency and scale at which disaster now occur underscores the increasing need for a multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral approach in the development plans and strategies towards risk reduction.

According to the lecturer, local community, learning certres, people welfare centres, government, NGOs, Relief and Voluntary organizations and school students must all be involved with all these institutions and must work in close coordination with each other.

He noted that, in particular, school students can participate and play important roles on disaster risk reduction exercise at almost all levels of analysis and decision making, adding that school students educate communities and even provide shelter during a disaster.

He described school premises as one of the institutions closest to disaster locations and can therefore act as first point of contact to disaster victims.

He stated that International Union For Conservation of Nature (IUCN) often travel to remote disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation areas with schools students, teachers local education officers and district officials for quick intervention.

Besides, he noted that bodies such as FEMA, SEPA, FEPA, NESREA, NASRDA, WMO, WWW, CRED, IFRC, Agencies, Ministries, Parastatals, NGOs , Red Cross, United Nations Organisation (UNO), United Nation Education Scientific Cultural Organisation (UNESC), United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), United Nation International Children Emergency Funds (UNICEF), among others that all involved in DRR project worldwide.

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