The state of disaster preparedness and climate resilience in the southern Africa region has come under the spotlight as the world commemorates the first anniversary of the Cyclones Idai and Kenneth. Exactly 1 year ago, these two natural disasters left immeasurable damage in 7 of the SADC countries, with over 2000 lives lost, hundreds of citizens left in disarray and millions of dollars' worth of damage to homes and infrastructure.
While the aftermath of these massive cyclones resulted in an unprecedented humanitarian disaster in the region, the stark reality of the state of unpreparedness for disasters was exposed. This summoned the need for a collective and proactive approach to disaster preparation by government, rescue organisations and civil society.
In response to this, the Southern Africa Trust alongside six other organisations facilitated a dialogue which gathered citizens of affected communities in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, civil society representatives and local government to reflect and contribute to a solution. The fellow organisations are the Centre of African Philanthropy and Social Investment (CAPSI), Amnesty International, National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO), Action Aid Mozambique, Southern Africa Youth Forum (SAYOF), and SADC Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (SADC-NGO).
Taking place from 2 to 4 March 2020 in Mutare, Zimbabwe, this gathering highlighted how citizens and participants have experienced existing regional Disaster Recovery Models. The report and recommendations from this dialogue will be submitted to the SADC Disaster Preparedness Technical Working Group via organisational co-members for the purposes of contributing to upcoming Disaster Preparedness Framework policy discussions within the region.
“Over and above short-term charity, the survivors of Cyclones Idai and Kenneth need the region's support in order to rebuild their lives. They need dignified housing, opportunities to income and access to state services such as education, documentation (IDs, birth certificates,etc) and security & protection.” Says Masego Madzwamuse, CEO of the Southern Africa Trust.
Some of the painful outlines of this report detail how the aftermath of these cyclones brought about the Second Disaster.It highlights the plight of citizens who despite the outpouring of global aid, have been left to fend for themselves with only the help of a handful of civil society organisations who have limited capacity to help communities rebuild their lives. Many people still live in tents and other temporary structures, with no sight of an end to their plight. Women and girls are increasingly vulnerable; and as a result are sexually violated in exchange for food supplies and other disaster relief provisions, while many people have been rendered stateless as a result of not being able to replace identification and travel documents that were lost in the catastrophe. It is through these experiences that these citizens agreed to participate in this dialogue and contribute to developing proposed solutions.
Notable recommendations include;
- Engaging with communities in a manner and language which best informs them on this urgent matter, thus refraining from using technical terms.
- Partners and communities committing to investing their resources in awareness and actions that address climate change risk.
- The establishment of community-based and women-led frameworks that focus on making risk reduction operational by prioritising the preparedness of communities for disasters.
- The establishment of laws and mechanisms that enforce Humanitarian Rescue efforts to respond to short and long term needs; while safeguarding against human and environmental exploitation.
- Increasing the capacity of regional meteorological departments to allow for effective early warning in cases of disasters.
Madzwamuse further added, “This dialogue was the first step to providing survivors with a safe space to share their experiences, and it is through this that their plight has been acknowledged. There needs to be more such engagements, particularly catering to women and children who remain most vulnerable post the cyclones.”