Dakar, Senegal – The presence in Dakar of representatives of the Red Cross/ Red Crescent societies and Civil Defense from all West African countries in Dakar “is a clear indication of a common will to move forward and seek how to improve disaster prevention beyond immediate response and assistance”, Resident Coordinator a.i. for Senegal Francis James said today at the opening of the regional consultation on Disaster management in West Africa.
The sixth edition of the annual regional consultation is taking place later than usual, while some of the countries in West Africa are hit by severe flooding. In Niger, nearly 500,000 persons are affected and at least 70 people have died. Heavy rains have also claimed lives and caused suffering and important damages in Nigeria, Senegal and other countries in the region.
“These natural disasters are badly affecting the agriculture, the infrastructures, the hydrology and above all the health sector with unprecedented socio-economic consequences”, said Jerry Niati, Disaster manager at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies (IFRC). The regional Consultation’s main objective is to strengthen disaster preparedness actions by States to reduce risks and mitigate their effects. The three-day meeting will explore ways to enhance preparedness and response to emergencies in West Africa, provide opportunities to discuss lessons learned from urban risk and consider ways to better use of data and hydro-meteorological information.
ECOWAS will present its new humanitarian policy and its 2012-2107 action plan. Adopted in March 2012, the Humanitarian Policy of ECOWAS aims to standardize the practice of humanitarian action in Member States of the sub-regional organization promoting a balanced relationship between humanitarian action, human security and human development all ECOWAS space based on the principle of regional solidarity. Two of the four priority areas - natural and man-made disasters – are directly related to the Consultation’s agenda.
Disaster prevention is more efficient and costs seven times less than response, said M. Ali Haidar, Minister of Ecology and Nature protection of Senegal, who deemed the ECOWAS humanitarian policy “a reference instrument for our countries”. Director of the Department of humanitarian and social Affairs at ECOWAS Commission, Dr Daniel Eklu, said prevention was not an autonomous activity, rather an element of sustainable development. “If we can help households better manage consequences of natural disaster such as flooding, suffering we see today can be reduced”, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel David Gressly said.
The Consultation is organized jointly by OCHA and the IFRC with the support of ECOWAS and the Government of Senegal.