“Saving a life and improving Community resilience” centers on this year’s Disaster Reduction Day

By IShmael Kindama Dumbuya
October 13th of each year is regarded as the international day for the reduction of disaster around the world. In Sierra Leone, the day is commemorated by the Office of National Security in collaboration with the Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) with support from the International Organization for Migration on the theme, “save a life and improve Community resilience”. During the seminar on disaster at the Military facility in Wilberforce, participants gave accounts on how best they played towards the recent flooding and mudslide disasters in the country. The international day for the reduction was started in 1989 after a call to the United Nations for a special day for awareness raising on disaster in the world.
The Country Manager of the United Nations Office for Peacebuilding in Sierra Leone, Nick Gardner said “the day celebrate how people and community around the world are reducing their exposure to disaster and raising awareness about the important of raising the risk they face”. He said disasters are produced by natural strikes and affect millions of people every year worldwide. He mentioned the disasters that occurred over the past two months around the world citing the Caribbean, the United States and even in Sierra Leone.

Mr. Gardner further revealed that in 2016, 24.2million people had to leave their homes and over the last twenty years, 1.35m people have died because of exposure to natural disasters with women and girls bearing a heavy toll. He also added that in the last two decades, over four billion persons have been displaced and left homeless in need of emergencies while stressing that the resulting loss of life is tragic while the result in homelessness is extremely costly.
On behalf of the UNOPS Family in Sierra Leone, Mr. Gardner committed the UN support to the government of Sierra Leone in the strive towards disaster reduction in the country.
The Director of the Disaster Management Department at the Office of National Security, John Rogers said there has been many disaster occurrences at the global level and most of these disasters have impacted greatly on human beings and loss of properties. He mentioned two main great disasters such as the Ebola diseases and the mudslide that have impacted on the development of the country. He said up to ten pillars including the protection and security pillars were activated by the government of Sierra Leone when the disaster happened. He added that the activity on the day of disaster reduction aimed at sharing ideas, thoughts, comments and finding solutions in which disasters can be reduced in the country as well as to determine how best and what next to be done. He also said the activity aimed at finding solutions on what best was done and what challenges faced during the recovery process of the mudslide in Freetown.
The Executive Director of VSO Global, Madam Donne said her organization is interested in how volunteering might support resilience in both the communities that they work and also the systems that support those communities. She said what is also important is how local and international volunteers can train and inform communities to be better prepared to fight emergencies and the choices and responsibilities that they have particularly when they live in high risk areas.
The VSO Director noted that during the recent disasters, there has been a visible way in which local and international volunteers have played towards effectiveness and awareness raising in the communities. She said they are very proud and privileged to be part of this evidence gathering on the recent mudslide incidence that occurred in the country.
Assistant Inspector General of Police and also acting Director of Operations at the Sierra Leone Police, AIG Kalia Sesay said when the mudslide disaster occurred, the security sector was tasked with responsibility of managing the situation in protecting lives and properties and were in charge of leading the pillar on safety and security as well as recovering dead bodies in the disaster areas.

The High table

The Operations Manager and acting World Bank Country Manager, Sheikh Alhaji Yayah Sesay said as disaster incidences occur, the need for robust action on housing arises. He said significant investment and continued effort are needed to strengthen institutions and activities aimed at enhancing resilience towards Climate Change and disasters.
A representative of the Environment Protection Agency, Michael Jusu said his Agency has and will continue to lead the way forward towards environment in the country. He said at present, their goal is to identify all the prone areas in the country, map them out and ensure awareness, sensitization and the necessary information is provided to all people to understand that the areas they are living are disaster prone areas.

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