'We are changing our responses from intervening when a disaster has happened to supporting communities before a disaster strikes'
Why should Government and its partners respond after a disaster has taken place yet it can intervene before the disaster and save lives as well as money? This is what has influenced Uganda Red Cross to change its approach to disaster interventions.
“We are changing our responses from intervening when a disaster has happened to supporting communities before a disaster strikes,” said Robert Akankwasa, a director at Uganda Red Cross.
This, according to Akankwasa is expected to reduce the cost of intervention by about 60%. He said waiting for disaster to happen is more costly than intervention before the disaster happens.
Akankwasa said most of the disasters across the country are related to climate change and that they can be predicated.
“We are working with the weather centre in the Uganda National Meteorological Authority to integrate the weather forecast in our interventions,” said Akankwasa, adding that they will support community responses once there is a probability of 60%-70% of a disaster to occur.
Akankwasa was speaking recently at Metropole Hotel during the inception workshop for innovative approaches in Response Preparedness Project (IARP) which will be implemented in the region including Uganda by Red Cross.
Uganda has in recent years experienced frequent floods, droughts and landslides in eastern Uganda and north eastern Uganda.
Akankwasa also pointed out that vulnerable communities would be given money as opposed to providing items. Instead of giving somebody money to buy food, humanitarian organisations have in the past provided items such as jerry-cans or plastic basins and this is why some of the beneficiaries end up selling them.
“We want to give money to the vulnerable households to buy food,” he said, adding that accountability is an issue, but research is currently being undertaken to inform us how best this can be undertaken.
Uganda Red Cross has a community network of volunteers with a branch in every district. This network is able to trigger calls for emergency response.
Harriet Aber, a researcher from Makerere School of Public Health, who is currently undertaking a research in Katakwi and Amuria, said: “Cash is now a standard tool in re-construction and that it is increasingly necessary in early stages of disaster response.”
She added: “There is a huge opportunity to mitigate the impacts of disaster by using cash and it is important to build the capacity of the different actors to make it readily available.”