Sierra Leone: Disaster management committees to prevent and respond to local disasters
The Office of the National Security (ONS), in collaboration with all 14 District Councils, has completed training of three hundred and fifty five (355) members of District Disaster Management Committees (DDMCs) in Port Loko recently.
With support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the training workshops and consultations led to the re-activation and in some cases formation of DDMCs in all 14 districts. The Committees inter alia, are responsible for identifying, preventing and mitigating local disasters. The DDMCs will also engage in communicating risks of disasters at the national level.
In 2013, UNDP supported the Disaster Management Department (DMD) - the national body within the ONS that is charged with disaster preparedness and response – in collaborated with the Sierra Leone Police, National Fire Force, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone Red Cross and others to provide training for DDMCs in 11 districts.
Western Area Rural District as part of the process of enhancing local level response to disasters. The training also took into account lessons learned from the Ebola crisis, during which the importance of local emergency response structures was fundamental.
Mammadi Kamara, a market woman from Kambia who is also the chairperson of the Bramaia Village Committee in the Kukuna Chiefdom, said that her district is prone to frequent bushfires and other disasters. She noted: “With this training, we no longer have to wait for the Government when there is a disaster. Whenever there is potential threat of disaster, with this training and the composition of the DDMC, we should be able to prevent it or respond quickly” she said.
The training covered orientation on basic disaster risk reduction concepts, community contingency planning, early warning systems, emergency first aid training, team work in tackling disasters and by extension disaster prevention mechanisms with emphasis on a community-based approach.
John Vandy Rogers, Director of DMD, said that “UNDP has boosted ONS-DMD in strategic areas like capacity building, technical and financial support, which has had an immense improvement in our overall performance.”
He continued that UNDP has had a long standing relationship with the Government of Sierra Leone especially in the area of disaster risk reduction and hoped for more collaboration in strategic areas aligned to the new global goals - Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The committee comprises Paramount Chiefs, representatives of District Councils, representatives from the Office of National Security, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone Police, District Immigration Officers, Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, National Fire Force, Sierra Leone Red Cross, local community media, youths, and women groups.
UNDP works in vulnerable communities to reduce the impacts and risks of natural and other disasters in Sierra Leone by reinforcing and supporting stabilization of livelihood protection and empowerment of vulnerable people especially youth and women. UNDP also supports the DMD of the ONS to ensure that early warning modalities are put in place to avert, or at least, manage disasters.