The ability to save lives and reduce the impact of disasters depends on the preventative steps society takes long before disaster strikes, says Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Zweli Mkhize.
The Minister said this at the celebration of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDDR) in Upington, in the Northern Cape on Friday.
“As we mark the International Day of Disaster Risk Reduction, we should be mindful of the need to do everything we can to reduce exposure to hazards, lessen the vulnerability of people and property and manage land and the environment wisely,” he said.
Society, he said, should also improve preparedness and early warning systems for adverse events.
“Achieving disaster risk reduction and increased resilience requires increased collaboration across governments and key stakeholders. We need to generate and make a more effective use of scientific data and information, identify knowledge, use indigenous knowledge and capacity gaps and co-produce solutions that can effectively support decisions and actions towards resilience building,” he said.
Education and public awareness programmes also go a long way in ensuring that all communities understand the different disaster risk factors and scenarios and are able to apply preventative measures.
Disasters continue to wreak havoc throughout the world, as was witnessed with Madagascar’s tropical storm “Eliakim” in March as well as the major earthquake in Indonesia that was followed by a localised Tsunami. The disaster saw critical infrastructure damaged and over 2000 people killed.
“The Southern African region is already experiencing changes in climate such as higher temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and varying frequencies of natural hazard events. Natural hazards and climate change extremes pose a significant development challenge to the region.
“A single disaster event has the potential to erode many years of economic development gains by damaging critical infrastructure and by diverting resources away from development spending, such as health and education services, toward disaster response and reconstruction efforts,” he said.
South Africa, like other countries in the region, is vulnerable to a number of natural hazards. Drought has become a normal feature of the South African climate. The drought situation has improved in many provinces due to the winter and early summer rainfalls and due to government interventions.
“We are confident that these interventions brought relief and contribute to building resilience in the affected sectors and communities.”
The National Treasury recently allocated R3.2 billion to deal with the effects of drought and water scarcity and R1.6 billion to deal with the effects of storms and fires.
The National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) provided drought relief to the affected areas in the form of disaster grant funding. – SAnews.gov.za