Abuja, Nigeria (PANA) - To strengthen the preparedness and response capacities of West African countries to natural disasters, the ECOWAS secretariat in Abuja, the Nigerian capital city, Tuesday began hosting a three-day consultative meeting of the Regional Committee for Disaster Management in West Africa (GECEAO).
Opening the meeting, the Nigerian Minister of Environment, Mrs. Hadiza Mailafia, charged the participants from the ECOWAS sub-region and its multilateral partners “to find ways and means of providing a mechanism for regional risk assessment, mitigation, preparedness and response.”
Mailafia challenged governments in the sub region to consider integrating risk prevention and mitigation in their policy programmes and intervention.
She noted that government’s inability to do this in Nigeria resulted in the wide-spread flood disaster of 2012 which hit 23 States of the Federation, affecting 7,705,398 people, displacing 2,157,419, causing the death of 363, destroying 597,476 houses and resulted in unprecedented ecological damage and destruction of property worth N2.6 trillion (US$ 17.3 billion).
Also speaking at the meeting, the Director-General of the Nigerian National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Alhaji Muhammad Sani Sidi, alerted countries in the West African Sub-region of the increasing incidences of disaster across the zone, advising the governments to take disaster management more seriously in order to promote safety and development.
Climate change related challenges, he said, have significantly increased the occurrences of disasters across the globe in recent years.
He said: “such disasters which are more pronounced in developing nations with weak capacity for adaptation have quite often resulted in large-scale devastation, loss of lives and significant ecological dislocation.
"Similarly, economic losses from disasters, both natural and human induced, have become a recurring phenomena.
“Extreme weather conditions, including excessive rainfall, severe windstorm, heat-wave and droughts have become more frequent with adverse effects on the economy, environment, food security, lives and livelihoods. Indeed, the world is increasingly becoming a hostile place to live in.
“Unlike the developed nations where proportional losses due to disasters are in decline, people in the developing countries, including the ECOWAS nations, are increasingly vulnerable, to the extent that they account for a large percentage of global disaster related losses and secondary hazards."
He noted that the consultation among disaster management stakeholders of the ECOWAS community has become quite significant “given our recent experience on wide ranging and increasingly complex cross-border emergencies in the sub-region."
"Cross fertilization of ideas in a forum like this, mutual support, sharing of experiences, assets and expertise among ECOWAS countries have become necessary as we strive to brace up to the challenges of emergency preparedness, response and recovery in West Africa and beyond," he said.
According to Sidi, developing strategic partnerships initiatives with sister African countries on disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness, is in line with NEMA’s drive to foster regional cooperation among ECOWAS countries.
“In this regards, NEMA has over the years developed a well trained workforce and acquired strategic facilities and assets that can easily be deployed beyond the shores of Nigeria for timely and effective emergency response, mitigation and recovery.
-0- PANA MON/VAO 4June2013