Disaster risk in focus as African countries converge for key meeting

Source: Disaster risk in focus as African countries converge for key meeting | Herald (Business)

Jeffrey Gogo

Reducing risk from extreme disaster events such as Cyclone Idai will be the focus of a regional meeting to be held in Harare at the end of this month by the African Risk Capacity (ARC), a specialised agency of the African Union.

The two-day meeting will bring together ARC member countries from eastern and southern Africa, regional experts, the private sector and others.

ARC spokesperson Chinedu Moghalu said the overall objective of the workshop was for the agency to get country feedback on how it “can increase its outreach and align with ongoing initiatives in the region for better integration of the programme and create awareness on additional work streams.”

Established in 2012, the African Risk Capacity was created to strengthen government-led disaster risk management and financing systems.

It aims to achieve this through enhancing capacity on early warning and risk qualification as well as operational planning for early response, and risk transfer and financing tools in AU member states.

Since formation, the agency has provided up to US$400 million in drought risk coverage and nearly US$37million in insurance payouts, helping to support 2,1 million people exposed to various disasters.

Now, African countries in the east and south have in recent decades been badly affected by recurrent climate change-related disasters such as droughts, floods, tropical cyclones as well as, disease outbreaks and epidemics.

Still fresh in the memory is the example of Cyclone Idai, which meant many things to different people in different countries, after it left a trail of destruction and death.

Such disasters have also resulted in food and water shortages, displacement of people and loss of assets, particularly on the most vulnerable population groups.

According to the ARC, some disasters have been severe enough to have caused extensive fiscal risks and budget volatilities, forcing governments – including Zimbabwe’s – to unsustainable budget reallocations and supplementary budgets.

Incidences of this nature are expected to worsen now and in the future because of climate change, making disaster risk management a major aspect of economic and social development.

In this context, governments in SADC and eastern Africa have noted the importance of responding early, efficiently and effectively to disasters “in-order to minimise climate related insecurities, including volatility of the national budgets and safeguard investments in sustainable livelihoods especially of their most vulnerable populations.”

However, in most cases countries are constrained by extensive fiscal challenges and lack of sufficient capacity to mount such a response in a timely manner.

This is where the African Risk Capacity comes in.

One of the ARC’s key mechanisms for tackling the multi-pronged threats from extreme events is its Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance (DRFI) initiative, which is already being utilised by several countries within SADC and elsewhere.

The initiative revolves around innovative advancements in disaster risk management, early warning, information analytics and risk financing instruments that governments have or are in the process of adopting within their day to day governance systems.

The Harare meeting is expected to review the implementation of the DRFI mechanism as well as align ARC “programmes with other disaster risk financing initiatives for improved efficiency in programme implementation at country level.”

Chinedu Moghalu revealed that it will also “identify innovative approaches for resource mobilization to support premium financing at country or regional level.”

At the meeting, the AU agency is also expected to consult and debate the introduction of new programmes, such as the Outbreaks and Epidemics (O&E) product, which “aims at strengthening member states capacities in outbreak preparedness and response.”

“it is worthwhile for ARC to reflect on the programme implementation to enhance understanding of its value proposition across the region,” Moghalu said, in a statement,

In doing this, the agency will be “cognisant of all other similar initiatives that are being implemented by stakeholders and explore the best approaches to align similar initiatives in countries for efficiency,” he added.

Cyclone Idai proved a litmus test for Zimbabwe’s preparedness to handle disaster situations, which, have become more frequent, intense and damaging. It was a failure.

In the face of climate change and global warming, Zimbabwe needs to raise the bar on disaster risk management and preparedness.

The trend is to merge these responses with climate change adaptation, as the majority of present-day natural disasters are now directly linked to the science.

Such strategies can help Zimbabwe redefine its development assistance by working harder to use the national wealth to meet priorities of the poor – however little those savings may be.

God is faithful.