KAMPALA – Uganda Red Cross Society – URCS has tasked the government and other concerned parties to always prepare for disasters instead of just waiting for incidents and respond. In so doing, URCS says no lives will get lost but also fewer resources will be employed than the other way round.
The call was made on Wednesday during an engagement with Members of Parliament and media on Anticipatory Action in Disaster Risk Management at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala.
Uganda has in past decades experienced more erratic rainfalls leading to frequent busting of rivers, mudslides and landslides that lead to loss of lives and property of communities especially those living in the mountainous areas and those in low lands experiencing floods. Prolonged dry seasons are also frequently leading to the loss of crops and livestock.
Study shows that from 1900 to 2018, the country has encountered 20 floods, 40 epidemics, 9 droughts, and 5 landslides events. The accumulative damages caused by those natural disasters amount to over 200,000 deaths and at least $80 million in economic loss.
Mr. Robert Kwesiga – the Secretary General URCS told the members that forecast is the best way of minimizing the negative impact of disasters.
According to him, today, there is enough technology to tell the likelihood of a disaster.
“The bottom line is always about if we use technology which gives us information forecast information, this emergence is likely to happen. How do we make a commitment come part of the solution, how do we support the community to make sure that we don’t lose lives?”
He noted that they convened the legislators because they are key stakeholders who play a pivotal role.
“We want them to understand, evidence-based when they’re allocating the resources such that they know and take appropriate decisions that capture the reality on the ground. The people affected by the disasters are their constituents.”
Mr. Kwesiga also tasked every Uganda to plant trees in order to restore nature.
“Planting trees should be our collective responsibility as part of protecting and preserving the environment, and in the long run we contribute to disaster risk reduction.”
Mr. Emmanuel Ntale – Early Warning Officer at URCS called for stakeholders to come out of their comfort zones, watching at their people cry and write reports at the end.
“In most cases, we need to proactively use the same effort that we use after the disaster has happened to take these actions in advance because we all agree with advancements in technology we are able to predict adverse events in advance.”
He noted that Anticipatory Actions are part of early warning mechanisms that are required to plan for the population at risk in the wake of disasters.
“Let’s work together as stakeholders in disaster preparedness and prepare in advance. Communities look up to us for options,” he urged.
“Why do we wait to announce disasters after they have occurred? Prior actions would enable preparedness and early warning actions to mitigate disasters or the likely impact,” added Ntale.
Chairing the event, Tororo Woman Member of Parliament, Sarah Opendi said that it should be every Ugandan’s responsibility to take care of the environment, but also ensure that there is sustainability because “whatever we are doing our actions today are going to affect future generations.”
“Let us ensure that we plant trees and this can also can only be done if government engages the local leaders. The LCs are not being involved in climate change. Climate change is being discussed at a different level, but not at the grassroots level,” she said.
According to her, there is a contradiction when the government chases the poor from the wetlands in the name of protecting nature but clears the investors and the rich people to utilize the same wetlands.
“…we’re now seeing Kampala and other cities, people are being given clearance to construct permanent structures in the wetlands. The government should stick to its plan and policies, and only then shall we be able to have a country that is free from this disaster.”
Although the Office of the Prime Minister told the members that the Government is working tirelessly to ensure that they respond to the cause, a number of MPs denied this, noting that the government is rather sleeping on the job.
Nsubuga Ronald Balimwezo, MP Nakawa East said that “the government is doing almost nothing”, giving an example that just in Bugolobi, “the government has already licensed the investors to destroy wetlands.”
“The only gateway Lake Victoria is remaining is being encroached on by two investors going to construct apartments. These are reasons we have floods.”
MPs committed to doing more and following up on the policies and plans that are launched in Uganda to ensure that they are actually implemented.