KAMPALA – The Government of Uganda has applauded the international organisations including; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), European Union (EU) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for their key role in the fight against disasters in the country.
Officiating at the National Disaster Preparedness Dialogue at Speke Resort Munyoyo on Thursday, the State Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Esther Anyakun, said that Uganda is a highly disaster-prone country affected by all types of hazards ranging from floods, landslides, droughts, locusts, windstorms, hailstorms which all the government cannot afford to handle independently.
“Uganda was number one in having these disasters for the last two years in the Saharan sub-region. I want to thank our donors, UNDP, USAID, FAO, WFP, EU. This is a very compressive approach we are trying to use to see how we can handle the disaster because it is not about to end today nor tomorrow.”
“This is a very important occasion to me as a minister for this docket. We felt like this particular Dialogue was long overdue. We know very well that the country has been getting a lot of shocks on disaster issues….so we could not do it alone as a ministry,” she said.
Dr. Antonio Querido, FAO Representative in Uganda said that increasing the country’s preparedness is a clear priority in national development strategies such as the NDP III, providing momentum and a foundation on which to build and advance national preparedness for the well-being of all people.
“To achieve this aspiration, we must learn lessons from each of the events. In particular, these natural and man-made events highlight the need to institutionalize preparedness across all levels of society, considering issues of coordination, information management and adequate financing. This will ensure that the development gains which we are all working towards, as part of Uganda’s Vision 2040, are not lost in the wake of these disasters,” he said.
He said that the two-day Dialogue which started on Wednesday builds on an extensive and inclusive consultation process that began in April 2021 between the Office of the Prime Minister and FAO.
“Since the initial discussions, the scope of this Dialogue has expanded to enable learning from recent hazards, to underscore the importance of enhancing preparedness with a whole of society approach.”
“Uganda had not experienced a desert locust invasion in more than 60 years, such that desert locusts were not perceived as a plausible threat to well-being in Uganda as recently as November 2019. Thus, when the first swarms arrived in Uganda in February 2020, the country lacked the necessary equipment and skills to carry out surveillance effectively and efficiently to enable reporting of confirmed sightings to trigger control actions.”
Dr. Antonio said that Uganda would go on to experience five distinct waves of desert locust invasions through the Kenya – Uganda border between February and September 2020, which is estimated to have affected the food security and livelihoods, and thus well-being, of approximately 750 000 households throughout Acholi, Elgon, Karamoja, Lango and Teso sub-regions.
“To achieve enhanced preparedness to future foreseeable and unforeseeable hazards, we must act together to ensure effective coordination.”
“We must draw on the technical expertise of line ministries, departments and agencies such as the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, among others,” he said, adding that, “We need to urgently make plans that shift our approaches to dealing with disasters, from response to preparedness. Timely access to and use of accurate information to guide decision-making prior to, during, and following the occurrence of a disaster is critical to mitigate its impact.”
He re-echoed FAO’s commitment to supporting the Government of Uganda to plan for and manage future hazards, both the foreseeable and the unforeseeable.
On her part, Ms. Caroline Adriaensen, the European Union Head of Cooperation, just like other speakers agreed that Uganda is a disaster-prone country, exposed to multiple types of hazards.
“This includes those which are natural (floods, droughts, landslides and hailstorms), epidemics, and man-made,” she said.
She said that it’s unfortunate that the situation is being worsened by various factors such as climate change, the desert locusts crisis, and the increased impact of epidemics, impacting individual, community, country and global levels.
Uganda is a signatory of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, committing to achieve and track progress towards its four priorities during the 2015-2030 period, whose fourth priority of this focuses on Disaster Preparedness.
Ms. Adriaensen says this framework is extremely important to ensure the inclusion of Uganda in the global agenda.
She highlighted the following priorities, which she said the EU hopes this Dialogue will address
- First, we must build the foundation; we can strengthen the Legal Framework, to support the full operationalization of the National Disaster Preparedness and Management Policy.
- There is a need to establish an inclusive process to review the existing draft of the Disaster Risk Management Bill, involving of course OPM as lead with all relevant stakeholders involved.
- We saw in the discussions yesterday, a national response to disaster preparedness is a cross-cutting issue. It requires effective coordination among all actors. This is both at the national and local level, across sectors and ministries, among all stakeholders. This is an important point.
- We welcome of course the open discussions to date and call for the continuation of an inclusive consultation, also for the elaboration of the National DRM Plan.
- Uganda lacks a National Contingency Plan to define clear triggers for anticipatory action and emergency response. And this dialogue reminds us of the need for strengthened information management. Better dissemination of multi-hazard early warning and needs assessment data is needed to inform timely action.
- At the same time, we need adequate disaster risk financing and resources for the operationalisation of Contingency Funding. We see that it should be mainstreamed across sectors, and allocated to District Local Governments. And the approval of the legal framework is urgent in this respect.
- All of these actions can only be achieved with the strong leadership of OPM. And we believe that promoting its decentralization in the highest disaster-prone areas, would contribute to enhancing Disaster Preparedness and Response capacities in the country.
- As part of the Grand Bargain commitments, indeed localising disaster preparedness and response is at the top of our agenda.
According to Ms. Grace Tusiime, the Under Secretary/ Refugees and Disaster Management, the annual state of disaster report, 2020, highlighted that Uganda lost over Shs500Bln to disasters.
“Disasters were reported to majorly affect Transportation, Housing and Agriculture which are critical to most communities in this country. Relatedly, Government of Uganda budgeted for relief food and non-food support for approximately 350,000 households during the current Financial Year 2021/22 which is an increase from 50,000 households budgeted for during the Financial Year 2019/20.”
She said that the country is facing an increase of 14.2% in the “disaster load”.
“These figures from the respective Ministerial Policy Statements correlate with the year 2020 Annual State of Disaster Report that showed a 14% increase in Financial Loss suffered by various sectors due to Disasters between 2019 and 2020.”
She said that the nature of hazards is changing and their (OPM) approach ought to evolve as well floods, drought, crop pests and disease were easily categorized as major hazards, resulting in displacement of thousands, food insecurity and transmission of disease between man and the environment (plants and animals).
“However, in the last 2 years alone, Uganda has experienced the COVID epidemic, uncharacteristic flooding, locust invasion and bombings – all of which require quick interventions towards mitigation and greater emphasis towards prevention,” she said.
She, however, said that OPM has put in place preparedness measures including; provision of relief food with over thirty thousand households (30,000) having benefitted since the start of the FY 2021/22, support of over 10 disaster-prone districts to develop contingency plans, and compiling and dissemination of Uganda National Integrated Early Warning Systems (UNIEWS).