KAMPALA —The Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) has called upon government and Parliament to enhance its efforts in disaster risk reduction in Uganda.
The call comes against a backdrop of a rising tide of extreme weather events, including floods, waterlogging, landslides/mudslides, prolonged periods of drought, combined with epidemics and forced displacement experienced in Uganda.
Recent disasters caused by natural hazards have claimed lives and destroyed livelihoods as well as family, community, and public assets.
According to the latest figures published jointly by the Office of the Prime Minister and IOM Uganda, at least 222,930 people (36,404 households) were affected by weather-related disasters between January and August 2021.
Yet existing mechanisms for preparedness and response coordination remain inadequate; national and local coordination groups lack tools for timely collection and exchange of information and identification of the needs of affected populations. Moreover, several disaster-prone districts lack effective disaster preparedness and response plans to effectively mitigate and cope with the devastating effects of disasters in the country.
URCS made the call during a half -day national coordination meeting on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) targeting Members of Parliament and other strategic partners.
The meeting also attended by MPs on Environment and Climate Change of Parliament and officials from the Office of the Prime Minister was held on Tuesday, September 20, at Imperial Royale Hotel Kampala.
URCS General Secretary Uganda, Mr. Robert Kwesiga urged MPs to pay attention to disaster risk related management, noting that it help them in their legislation works.
“When Parliamentarians have the right information, in times of appropriating funds they can easily understand and make it happen” Kwesiga added
The Secretary General also noted that engagements like this should be a continuous process because after every term of office some legislators leave and others come in.
He pointed out that Uganda always responds to disasters after they have occurred. “There are fewer efforts on mitigation and the entire cycle of disaster risk management and this puts the nation in a very risky position,” he expressed.
Mr. said such engagements will bolster the capacity at national, district and local levels to collect, analyze and report data on disasters, as well as disaster response planning and management.
Mr. Raymond Kirungi, the disaster preparedness officer in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) acknowledged that more should be done to curb environmental degradation and decrease the risk of disasters.
He told MPs that government is committed to playing its role in lives and livelihoods of persons and communities and also in ensuring that disasters affecting communities are reduced.
“We are appreciative with the work of Uganda Red Cross Society and we remain committed to working with partners to ensure that the resilience of many communities remains to buffer” he highlighted.
Ora County Member of Parliament Lawrence Songa Biyika who also represented the chair Disaster Risk Reduction pointed out the need for government to expand the revenue base of the country and make resilient infrastructure that can withstand disasters.
“The cost of treatment of disasters is always a lot, the amount of money we now spend to address food hunger in Karamoja is high especially in this economy with little money” Songa highlighted.
Isingiro South MP Alex
Byarugaba Alex asked to government to prioritize areas for funding.
“The translation in this country is so poor, we have very good policies but talking action is still poor “Byarugaba added.
Among the other suggestions made by the URCS was for DRR to be integrated into district local government budgets.
They said this would help build the capacity of local governments to avert the adverse impacts of the disaster on their own without waiting for the central government interventions that usually come in when it’s already too late.
The stakeholders at the meeting also suggested that they would do more stakeholder-mapping so more players across the country are brought on board.