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Strengthening response to emergencies, natural disasters – Imperative for AU

The African continent frequently faces emergencies and natural disasters that devastate communities and strain existing response mechanisms.

Recent examples include the 2023 earthquake in Morocco that killed 3,000 and injured over 5,000 and the floods in Kenya in March 2024 that claimed 291 lives. These incidents highlight the urgent need for a coordinated and swift response, as current disaster management systems in many African countries are weak or non-existent.

Inadequate resources and technology hinder effective disaster management and rescue services across the continent. This inadequacy is not deliberate, but rather a consequence of the insufficient investment in emergency response infrastructure. The pressing question remains: How can Africa effectively respond to disasters when they occur?

The past decade has seen a rise in natural disasters in Africa, exacerbated by climate change which has led to severe droughts in the Horn of Africa and unprecedented flooding in West Africa.

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Urbanisation and industrial activities have also increased the risk of man-made disasters such as industrial fires and hazardous material spills. The recent explosion at a fuel depot in Sierra Leone underscored the severe consequences of inadequate emergency response capabilities.

Standing

A standing Disaster Management and Emergency Response Team under the African Union (AU) would provide a centralised and rapid reaction to disasters in member states. This team could be quickly deployed to any country facing an emergency, bringing the much-needed expertise and resources.

Currently, reliance on ad hoc responses and international aid often leads to delays, worsening the humanitarian impact. Establishing a dedicated team would ensure a group of highly trained professionals are always ready to act. Continuous training and simulation exercises would maintain high readiness levels.

This team could also offer training and support to local emergency services across the continent, enhancing overall preparedness.

Fund

Pooling resources at the continental level would lead to more efficient use of funds and equipment. A standing team could maintain a stockpile of essential supplies and advanced equipment which individual countries might find prohibitively expensive to procure on their own.

This shared resource model would ensure that even the most resource-strapped nations receive timely and effective assistance. Beyond the immediate response, a standing Disaster Management and Emergency Response Team could play a crucial role in disaster risk reduction. By conducting risk assessments and supporting the development of early warning systems, the AU could help member states build resilience against future disasters.

Approach

This proactive approach is essential for mitigating the long-term impacts of climate change and other emerging threats. The creation of an AU-standing Disaster Management and Emergency Response Team requires political will, strategic planning and financial investment. However, the potential benefits far outweigh the costs.

By prioritising this initiative, the African Union can demonstrate a commitment to protecting its citizens and fostering a more resilient continent. African leaders must recognise that disasters do not respect borders.

The collective safety and security of the continent depend on a unified and robust response mechanism. It is time for the AU to take decisive action, ensuring that when the next disaster strikes, Africa is ready to respond swiftly and effectively, saving lives and minimising suffering.

Reflecting on the recent tragedies that have befallen the continent, it is imperative to channel grief and frustration into constructive action. Establishing a standing Disaster Management and Emergency Response Team within the African Union is not just a strategic necessity but a moral imperative.

Investing in this critical infrastructure will create a safer, more resilient Africa, ready to face the challenges of today and tomorrow. The time to act is now.

The writer is a Public Relations Officer,
Ghana National Fire Service, Central Region.
E-mail: waz4all@gmail.com

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