Disaster management and risk control experts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has reviewed the problem of weak disaster management infrastructure in the region. The experts have also come to terms with the observed lapses and reported disconnect between disaster management and development planning as a whole, with a view to coming up with an acceptable working document in aid of a preemptive and responsive disaster control mechanism, according to a statement from ECOWAS.
It said welcoming delegates, experts and participants to the opening of the meeting to validate the Draft Model for National Emergency Management Agencies (NDMAs) for the West African region in Accra recently, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender Dr. Fatimata Dia Sow observed that from a cursory analysis of disaster management response in the last few years, the disaster management systems in a number of ECOWAS Member States were presently fractionalized and did not deliver in a timely and effective manner.
Dr. Sow who spoke through the Principal Program Officer (Disaster and Risk Reduction), Mr. Mohammed Ibrahim, disclosed that only a few Member States had dedicated National Disaster Management Institutions charged with responding to and coordinating institutions nationally having regard to the elements of the disaster management cycle. Hand in hand with a workable disaster management approach, experts had over the years maintained that there is a need for effective collaboration with external humanitarian partners (both in institutional and field coordination terms) and also at the levels of disaster resourcing, institutional as well as technical capacity.
Recalling the approval given to the Humanitarian Policy and Plan of Action by the Heads of States of ECOWAS in 2012, the Commissioner drew attention to the directive that all Member States must ensure appropriate legal and policy frameworks for preventing and responding to emergencies and disasters. The Policy and its plan of Action mandate all ECOWAS Member States to ensure the establishment of specific National Disaster Management Agencies in each country with its authority anchored at the highest level possible.
The justification for the Model stems from the prevailing circumstances where coordination of national and regional efforts has become very challenging. With varying institutional responses, it has been found that existing capacity levels are insufficient to adequately meet key disaster management needs, especially in major crisis. This prompted the ECOWAS Commission to set up a Task Force to draft a model to be submitted to Member States for their consideration. The objective of the current endeavor is to ensure the creation of a National Disaster Management Agency in each Member State that is capable of intervening rapidly and effectively in disaster situations.
The Accra meeting is coming on the heels of previous regional efforts in disaster management such as the adoption of the ECOWAS Humanitarian Response Mechanism (EHRM); Disaster Risk Reduction Policy (DRR); Program of Action for the Implementation of the ECOWAS Policy for Disaster Risk Reduction; and ECOWAS Emergency Response Team (EERT).
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS; French: Communauté économique des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, CEDEAO) is a regional group of fifteen West African countries. Founded on 28 May 1975, with the signing of the Treaty of Lagos, its mission is to promote economic integration across the region. Considered one of the pillars of the African Economic Community, the organization was founded in order to achieve “collective self-sufficiency” for its member states by creating a single large trading bloc through an economic and trading union. It also serves as a peacekeeping force in the region. The organization operates officially in three co-equal languages—French, English, and Portuguese.