United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Regional Office for West & Central Africa (OCHA-ROWCA) press release: Regional consultation on natural disasters preparedness in West Africa stresses lessons learnt from 2010 flooding, information sharing
Cotonou – Participants to the Fifth Regional Consultation on floods and disaster preparedness on Friday concluded three days of exchanges in Cotonou, Benin, stressing the necessity of learning from the 2010 flooding, as well as the importance of information and data gathering and sharing in the field of preparedness and early warning. Participants adopted the terms of reference of the Regional Committee of disaster management in West Africa (GECEAO) and elected an Executive Office to follow up the implementation of the Annual Action plans yet to be adopted.
The Consultation was organized jointly by OCHA and the International Federation of the Red Cross with the support of ECOWAS and the Government of Benin. Participants included representatives of Civil Defence and the national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies of 14 of the 15 ECOWAS Members and Mauritania, as well as Experts from specialized agencies, humanitarian Donors and NGOs.
Participants in workshops discussed lessons learnt from the 2010 flooding, based on various case studies such as Benin, Ghana or Togo. They stressed the necessity of strengthening cooperation at both national and international levels, as well as between relevant organizations; speed up responses; and increase actors’ capacities. Special attention was given to Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso, as early seasonal weather forecasts anticipate rainfalls above average in those countries during the June-September rainy season.
A separate UNDP/OCHA- sponsored workshop is scheduled in Cotonou on 6 and 7 June to assess the Benin flood 2010 Emergency Humanitarian Action plan (EHAP) and update the national Contingency plan for 2011.
Emphasis was put on information gathering, sharing and management, with a focus on information for action, including such scientific information as meteorological data. Several participants cited ECOWAS alongside national level as an appropriate framework for information sharing. Participants also examine issues such as common Assessment tools and typology of disasters, and the civil-military coordination in natural disasters.
Participants adopted the terms of reference of the Regional Committee of the GECEAO established by the Fourth Consultation held in Praia (Cap Vert) in 2010. The Regional Committee is made of one representative from each ECOWAS Member State plus Mauritania and one representative of each Red Cross/Red Crescent national Society. It aims at: promoting the strengthening of disaster preparedness and of disaster risk reduction activities; ensuring a coordinated response in situations of disaster; warranting the integration of early recovery and rehabilitation; contributing to resources mobilization; promoting effective implementation of the Oslo guidelines on the use of military and civil Defence assets in Disaster relief; collecting, processing and disseminating information; and reinforcing national disaster management capacities.
The new Executive Office comprises of six members, elected for one year: the representatives from Benin (Chair), Gambia and Guinea Bissau (Secretary); and the representatives of Red Cross/Red Crescent from Cap Vert, Nigeria and Senegal.
While insufficient rainfalls in 2009 throughout the Sahel region created a severe food crisis in the area, which affected up to ten million people in 2010, 2010 flooding in West Africa were the most devastating of the last five years, affecting more than 1.7 million people and killing more than 300. Most affected countries were Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Ghana. In Benin alone, 680,000 people were affected and up to two-third of the country, including the capital Cotonou, were flooded.
The environmental degradation together with the lack of compliance with technological, industrial and urban standards; low investment in prevention, early warning and monitoring; and the lack of preparedness of stakeholders intensify the impact of floods and other disasters in a region that is also prone to political, social and economical tensions and crises.
For more information contact:
Public Information Officer
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) - ROWCA
Tel: 221 33 869 8515
Cell: 221 77 569 9653
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