Missing out in DRR interventions

Chitipa, Climate change and its impact through occurrences of natural disasters like floods and drought is tearing through the fabric of any society, hitting hard on vulnerable populations.

Among these populations are children, women, the elderly, the youth and persons with disabilities. Resilience through Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) calls for the empowerment of vulnerable groups through various interventions.

But in Chitipa, this seems to be a difficult task. People with disability and the youth are said to be left out in DRR interventions the district carries out.

An interaction with different groups of people in the district shows a glaring gap in governance issues related to disaster risk reduction. A general lack of access to early warning information by people with disabilities and minimal involvement of the youth in DRR interventions emerges as one key challenge.

Strengthening early warning system is one of the priority areas of the Malawi National Disaster Management Policy, which calls for an integrated and people-centred system for effective disaster preparedness and responses.

This priority emphasizes that individuals, communities and organisations threatened by hazards of disaster participate in the generation of and access to meaningful early warning information that enables them to act timely and appropriately.

But a grouping of people with disabilities called Chitipa Disability Consortium (CDC) feels the spirit of this priority in the policy is not being translated on the ground.

Chairperson for CDC Wisdom Tembo says many people with disabilities in Chitipa lack early warning information to make them well prepared to the impacts of disasters like floods and drought.

Most of the times, we are not invited to gatherings disseminating information about the rainfall pattern.

We are always in the dark on whether there will be heavy rains in a season that may result in flooding or there will be little rains resulting in drought, says Tembo.

He adds that such situation puts lives of many people with disability at high risk since they are always clueless on how best they can prepare for disaster shocks.

Tembo further says that in Chitipa, the stable onset of the rains is usually in December but he is surprised when he sees some farmers planting before this month.

When you ask around you find that these are individuals who had access to information about the rain and other related issues like the weather patterns, he says.

Tembo appeals to the disaster management office in the district to consider people with disabilities because they also have a right to access early warning information.

Equally missing in the equation are the youths who are believed to be sidelined in a number of activities in DRR.

Justice Chilenga is a member of Chitipa Concern Youth Organisation (CCYO) who says that very few youths are incorporated in a number of development issues including that of disaster management and reduction.

Says Chilenga; The views of youth representation in committees of development at both village and area level are not taken on board very often. Most of the times they are older people who do everything.

District Youth Officer for Chitipa Youngson Ngwira agrees with Chilenga saying that it is always surprising to see that the youth who have the drive and energy to serve better are often left out.

Young people also have the ability to assist vulnerable population in times of disasters like floods. So it is ideal to rope them in all activities related to disaster management.

The challenges facing the two groups run counter to global efforts in mainstreaming issues of disaster management and risk reduction.

In March 2015, countries around the world adopted The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 at theUN World Conference in Sendai, Japan.

The Framework outlines four prioritised actions for mainstreaming DRR issues one of which is strengthening disaster risk governance for prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery and rehabilitation.

This priority for action calls on governments to adopt disaster risk reduction practices that should be inclusive, accessible and non discriminatory in participation, practices that should pay special attention to people disproportionately affected by disasters, especially women, children and youth, persons with disabilities, poor people and migrants among others.

In order to reduce disaster risk, there is a need to address existing challenges and prepare for future ones by focusing on monitoring, assessing and understanding disaster risk.

…there is a need of sharing such information and have a full and meaningful participation of relevant stakeholders at appropriate levels, reads the framework.

The idea behind this priority action is to meet one of the seven global targets which aim at substantially increasing the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments to people by 2030.

The sentiments by the youth and people with disability in Chitipa could be a smokescreen to challenges many vulnerable groups face when it comes to disaster risk reductions issues especially in access to vital information.

Chitipa Disaster Risk Management Officer Idris Gausi says lack of proper local structures working with development committees is one reason that some populations miss out in accessing information on DRR interventions.

Sometimes it is difficult to target some vulnerable populations like people with disability in isolation. Their structures are loose for them to be targeted. They need to attach themselves to village and area development committees which are entry points for development initiatives at local level, says Gausi.

He adds that there are special committees working in DRR at community level called civil protection committees (CPC) that documents DRR related needs.

One of the committee members for Chitipa District civil protection committee Ed-grant Ndoza says they are trying to reach out to all people with DRR interventions through these CPCs.

So far, we have established committees in all five traditional authorities (T/As) in the district. Very soon, we will be setting up these structures in all villages, says Ndoza.

Source: Malawi News Agency MANA