Saturday , April 17 2021

South African countries should work together to manage disasters


Chris Chapwe Nshshibi, correspondent
The Icelandic cyclone, which recently destroyed Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, was one of the worst natural disasters that hit the South African region.

It killed at least a thousand people and caused damage to about $ 2 billion.

The response from the member states of the South African Development Community (SADC), civil society, the private sector, and individuals in the region points to the need for a collective, regional approach to addressing natural disasters, not individual countries' autonomy.

The Cyclone Idai also showed, once again, that SADC is unwilling to respond to major natural disasters.

It seems that he has not learned much from the previous ones.

In 2015, floods and torrential rains, linked to the Cheddar Cyclone and Cyclone Bansai Tropical Storm, killed 260 people and 360,000 were homeless in Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

About a year earlier, the floods were killed, displaced, and left thousands homeless in Zimbabwe. However, the storm that remains most common in the minds of many people is the one that hit Mozambique 19 years ago in 2000, killing 700 people and leaving two million homeless.

Disasters of this kind do not know boundaries. Therefore, they demand thinking beyond the narrow view that individual governments should respond only to crises.

Reply to Idai

Idai's first regional response came from the South African National Defense Force and the Disaster Relief Agency in South Africa, the Provider's Gift. These answers followed the Mozambican government's request.

The United Nations responded several days later to aid operations in the countries concerned. Other states SADC, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and ordinary citizens also donated humanitarian efforts.

For its part, however, the SADC voice was apparently absent at least a week after the destruction.

Usually, this was supposed to lead to relief operations.

It was disturbing to see UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, for appealing for help, and drafted a plan to respond to the disaster in the Security Council assembly, while SADC remained missing in action.

SADC has a dedicated unit to reduce the risk of disasters. It coordinates regional readiness and responses to cross-border disasters and hazards.

But, as Foreign Minister of South Africa Lindi Sisulu said, the regional body was completely unprepared for the disaster.

A set of resources

Of the 16 SADC member states, only Angola, Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa contributed to relief efforts.

This reflects the prevailing priorities for a bilateral approach to regional challenges within SADC.

At the heart of this are narrow nationalist interests and preoccupation with sovereignty.

Member States do not want to give control over the policies to be implemented by the regional collective good body.

But natural disasters such as the cyclone Idai do not respect the national boundaries.

Their very regional scope requires solutions that integrate domestic actions within the framework of regional governance to effectively address them.

When SADC eventually responded, he pledged $ 500,000 to help with humanitarian aid for a $ 2 billion disaster for damage to infrastructure alone.

Instead of acting individually, SADC countries should work together to pool resources and mobilize disaster relief efforts and resources to make them more efficient.

This can be done through the SADC Secretariat.

Funds for immediate humanitarian aid and for infrastructure rehabilitation should be held in a pre-existing, dedicated facility, as a regional disaster risk fund.

This will provide South Africa with financing the risk of climate and other disasters.

The funds, which are often donated by SADC members, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and ordinary citizens for humanitarian efforts, can also be united and put in a permanent regional mechanism.

But there are challenges.

The main challenge for forming a sub-regional disaster fund probably lies outside SADC and even in Africa.

The idea may not be right with some governments.

For example, the attempt to create an Asian Monetary Fund after the financial crisis in Asia 1997/1998 failed as the United States strongly opposed and China did not support it.

But SADC could work with global financial institutions to overcome this challenge.

For example, the World Bank is already running risk disaster programs.

SADC can approach the support and partnership in realizing the object.

Pillow against damage

The cyclone Idai once again showed that natural disasters are capable of provoking chaos across South Africa.

It also showed that the affected countries are too poor to respond to the destruction of their infrastructure and the accompanying humanitarian catastrophe.

Hence, it is necessary for the countries of the region to work together to develop solid contingency plans, including a permanent regional disaster fund, to help them mitigate the effects of natural disasters. Talk Africa

Chris Changwe Nshibbi is director and researcher at the University of Pretoria

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