Raising the Bar on Reducing Disasters


As the country continues to grapple with numerous challenges on all fronts, Kasim Sumaina writes on the need for stakeholders to reduce disasters in the country

The Oxford Dictionary succinctly puts disaster as a very bad situation that causes problems. An unexpected event, such as a very bad accident, a flood or a fire, that kills a lot of people or causes a lot of damage.

In accordance with its statutory mandate of coordinating the management of all emergencies in the country, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has developed various policy documents to guide disaster risk reduction, disaster response and recovery.

Identification of the elements at risk and vulnerable groups that are likely to be most affected by a disaster is the first step in assessing disaster impacts and determining recovery needs. Enhancing Nigeria’s capability to recover from emergencies requires implementing recovery planning and programming activities in communities and across the following four inter-linked spaces that detonated the categories of impacts that communities and individuals have to recover from: humanitarian, social, economic, natural and built environments.

According to the Guidance on Emergency Recovery, Nigeria is extremely vulnerable to droughts, floods, landslides, gully erosion and windstorms. Droughts it says, affect more people but flooding is the most frequent hazards. Droughts, hinted guide are most common in Sudano-Sahelian areas (such as in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe Sokoto, Bauchi, Katsina, Kano, Gombe, Kebbi and Zamfara states).

Flooding along the Niger River and its tributaries affects large parts of the population living along the river and is also becoming frequent in major urban centres such as Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano and Ibadan. Landslides and extremely gully erosion impacts infrastructure and livelihoods of parts of Southeastern Nigeria with Anambra State being the most affected. Other disasters include disease outbreaks and epidemics, such as cholera, malaria, meningitis, measles, Lassa fever, yellow fever and more recently the Avian influenza virus (H5N1) in 2005.

The country has also experienced many cases of collapsed buildings in some major cities including, Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt; terrorism, militancy amongst others. Experience with recent disaster recovery efforts in Nigeria highlights the need for additional guidelines, structures and support to improve on how we, as a nation, must address disaster recovery challenges.

In 2012 flood disaster in Nigeria resulted in human, material and economic losses, with 363 people killed, another 5,851 injured, while 7,705,398 were affected and 2,157,419 persons were displaced. In like manner, conflicts and terrorism have caused wide spread damages, loss of lives, properties and the environment.

Response to these disasters the Director General of NEMA, Muhammed Sani Sidi, noted, inform of relief, is not sufficient. Adding, “That there is the need to strengthen our strategies, plans and operations for effective disaster risk reduction, recovery and resilient building. This we hope to do through the National Disaster Recovery Strategy and Framework.”

The aforementioned cases prompted the NEMA to recently explain that the national disaster profile over the years shows that Nigeria is bedeviled with varied and multiple hazards, some cutting across geopolitical boundaries, while others are peculiar to specific areas. These hazards have resulted in disasters due to the activities of man that increased the vulnerability of the population. The frequency and magnitude of disasters have therefore become sources of concern.

The Director General while delivering his speech at the 2016 International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction disclosed that the event provided the opportunity to discuss the over arching global challenge of disaster reduction; brainstorming on how to encourage and bring all partners together to advance this cause. He said disaster can happen and that no one can stop disaster from happening but, harped on the need to ensure no citizen die as a result of any form of disaster.

Sidi, noted that the combination of natural hazards and vulnerability pose a constant threat to both lives and livelihood as the world was witnessing a rapidly increasing impact of disasters with unacceptable impacts in mortality indices.

According to Sidi, malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea, measles, HIV/Aids account for more than 70 per cent estimated deaths in Nigeria. Adding that every single day, Nigeria loses thousands of under-five year olds and hundreds of women of childbearing age. “This makes the country the second largest contributor to the under-five and maternal mortality rate in the world.”

He said there was the need to focus on the seven targets of the new Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction in Nigeria and the world at large. Adding that, this year’s theme will dwell on the first target seeking to create a wave of awareness about actions that need to be taken to reduce mortality around the world. According to UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2011,”It is no denial that the threat from natural disasters is urgent and need immediate concerted attention.

“Although analysis of recent trends show that the country is making progress in cutting down infant and under-five mortality rates, the pace still remains too slow. Preventable or treatable infectious diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea, measles and HIV/AIDS account for more than 70 per cent of the estimated one million under-five deaths in Nigeria.”

It will be recalled that the national disaster profile over the years, shows that Nigeria was bedeviled with varied and multiple hazards, some cutting across geopolitical boundaries, while others were peculiar to specific areas. The frequency and magnitude of disasters in the country have therefore become sources of concern.

“Our response to this challenge will ensure the protection and well-being of our future generation who are present here. This is building resilience on a sustainable platform. Nigeria also faces security challenges from several causes, including from micro nationalism, ethnic, religious and communal conflicts, civil disturbances.

“Disaster from natural, conflict or technological sources threaten people’s lives and health, limit and increase uncertainty of their livelihoods and economic activity, severely undermine market access and competitiveness and compromise governance system. They also destroy both natural and built environment, expose females to sexual abuse and violence, contribute to increase in the number of refugees and displaced persons, erode development gains and limit structural stability.

He emphasised that, “stakeholders need to create awareness on a sustainable basis especially around the communities so that we can build the resilience for the communities to be able to meet up with the challenges of disasters. We need to mitigate these disasters.”

To this end, Sidi said the 2016 International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, “provides the opportunity to discuss the overarching global challenge of disaster reduction; brainstorming on how to encourage and bring all partners together to advance this cause.”

To develop a culture of disaster risk reduction in Nigeria in which communities and institutions understand the risks from and vulnerability to hazards and prepared with coordinated capabilities to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from all hazards in a way that balances risk with resources and need.

“It is pertinent to know that, stakeholders involved in recovery need to recognise that successful recovery depends on their commitment to providing the human and material resources and services required during medium and long term recovery. And that, effective response to and recovery from emergencies require preparedness capacity and that the impacts of and capabilities to recover from disasters differ in different communities, that costs of recovery should be weighed against needs and resources because it is not possible to recover from all possible contingencies.

The DG further explained that the strategic considerations for recovery should be early establishment of a transition strategy, from response to early recovery, to ensure the appropriate withdrawal of response functions and activities. Adding that an approach that is consistent with the level of residual risk, recovery issues and priorities by adopting a holistic approach to recovery inclusive of social, economic, infrastructure and environmental considerations. The timely identification and appointment of lead agencies to coordinate functions related to the each of the above considerations.