The National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) in collaboration with its partners Wednesday converged on the Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi to validate the National Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Capacity Assessment Report.
The day-long validation workshop that brought together regional governors, regional disaster coordinators and regional disaster committee representatives amongst others, was meant to devise a strategic approach that seeks to be more instrumental and vibrant in facing disaster risk reduction.
In her official opening statement, the vice president and minister of Women’s Affairs, Her Excellency Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, who is the chairperson of the Disaster Governing Council, said that the capacity assessment of the NDMA and its partners could not have come at a better time than now, given the paradigm shift from disaster response to disaster risk reduction for development planning and programming.
Her words: “This paradigm shift clearly dictates the need to understand and define the existing national capacities, identify capacity gaps, and subsequently build these capacities to enhance the national and local resilience at all levels.”
VP Njie-Saidy told the gathering that promoting a resilience-based approach would now be considered the best approach to address humanitarian and emergency issues, while at the same time addressing the structural causes of vulnerability within the country and the communities. She maintained that it would be very imperative to build the resilience of our contemporary infrastructures, economies and communities as well as services to withstand pressures from any future hazards.
She noted that disasters are becoming more frequent, complex and transboundary in nature, while making reference to the 2010 flood in the West, the current Sahel food crisis and political situation in Guinea Bissau and Mali. She also spoke about the need to put in place appropriate meteorological and early warning systems that are responsive to our environment and have the ability to predict existing hazard and complex emergencies.
VP Njie-Saidy also commended the disaster governing council and the NDMA for having fully embraced the paradigm shift by advocating risk management in contrast to crisis management, while moving beyond emergency preparedness and response to DRR and subsequently to integrate DRR into development planning.
She added: “This approach clearly dictates the intricate link between disaster and development as well as poverty reduction and economic development.” She further stated that the attainment of the MDG targets and the promotion of the sustainable growth and development will be an illusion if the DRR is ignored in the national development agenda, saying this is why the DRR is well embedded in the PAGE as a cross-cutting pillar in support of the national development efforts.
The vice president further told the gathering that it is inline with the paradigm shift in DRR that the NDMA developed the necessary tools and standard instruments for disaster preparedness and a multi-hazard national contingency plan. “There is also ongoing work with the World Bank Global Facility for DRR on risk assessment and development of national risk profile and other instruments,” she disclosed, adding that the risk assessment and mapping exercise would involve a compressive hazard and risk mapping and profiling with use of geospatial tools to construct a historical database of hazards in the country.
She finally paid tribute to The Gambian leader, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh for continuously providing the political will and the conducive environment for the management of disasters in the country. She also thanked the UN country team for its relentless support.
On his part, Essa Khan, the executive director of the NDMA, applauded the Gambia Government for what he called the ‘high degree of political commitment’ in helping the NDMA work effectively with partners as well as gain international recognition.
Khan spoke about the need of shifting from the business to face and address the current situation, while noting that it is time to also move away from responding to crisis to circumvention. He expressed optimism that at the end of the day, they would come with strategies that would look at all areas of intervention in relation to disaster, especially resilient in economy and infrastructure, among others, for lasting solution.
Alex Dacosta, the representative from the UNDP spoke on behalf of the resident coordinator.