By Titus Kakembo
After having the bitter pill of terrorism, drought, famine, urbanization and a swelling population, the Ugandan authorities are not ready to take any more chances.
"We are tired of dealing with the consequences of disaster," the minister of relief, disaster preparedness and refugees said during a National Conference on Disaster Management at Speke Resort Munyonyo on Thursday.
"What we want is either prevention or a rapid response unit," he added.
He crowned the occasion by launching The Popular version Of the National Policy for Disaster Preparedness and Management.
Onek voiced his view that, “Had there been warning signals; the Bududa landslide, Kasese floods and droughts that ravaged Teso and Karamoja would have been of lesser impact.”
“It is no longer viable to wait for a disaster to occur but where possible prevent them,” stressed Onek. “We need to create awareness for health, climate and fire related hazards. They are on the increase in our midst.”
He pointed out that disasters are a serious disruption of the functioning communities. To crown the symposium, Onek launched the Popular Version of the National Policy on Disaster Preparedness and Management.
“Experience shows that disasters cause widespread human, material, economic and environmental losses.” Adding that, “Unfortunately, most of the victims do not have the ability to cope using their own meager resources.”
Onek also pointed out that, globally there is a relationship between the impact of a given disaster.
Assessing the recent disasters, the literature points out that they were poorly handled because there was a lack of resources, skilled man power, information flow, prevention mechanisms and no monitoring effort in place.
The Permanent Secretary, Office of the Prime Minister, Christine Guwatudde observed that in the recent past Uganda has been prone to a variety of disasters.
“We have had fires, famine, terrorist bombs, civil rebellion, landslides, cattle rustling, lightening and diseases that have crippled and killed many a victim,” Guwatudde said. “The new policy is a guide on how the policy will be implemented by different institutions.
She asserted that, the policy frame is a guide for institutions to share responsibility between the state and the citizens.
Guwatudde stated that, the Directorate responsible for Disaster Preparedness and refugees in the Office of the Prime Minister is the lead agency in co-ordinating all the stakeholders.
Triggering a heated debate the participants shot their hands in the air to raise issues.
“Unfortunately it does not point out that the people who are most affected during these disasters are also economically crippled,” pointed out Moses Muhumuza during his presentation. “Worse still when responding to the ignorant victims of a drought, embark on farming in the swamps - this makes the matter worse.”
There are people in Kasese who believe the recent floods, after River Nyakabwa burst it’s banks and killed eight people, was a result of the gods residing on top of Mount Rwenzori being angry with the Bakonjo.
The director World Vision International, Niber Baba Tierto pointed out that society is living in very challenging times when they are bombarded with bad news which is a threat to human kind.
“Disasters are as old as the Biblical times,” pointed out Tierto. “By then the copping mechanism was Noah’s Ark. Now what the rural folks want is moisture in their gardens – how are governments and NGOs going to lend a hand?”
Chapter five of the policy framework points out strategies and mechanisms integrating schools, the media, assess risk in place, partner with international organs, research, put in place early warning systems and human resource training.