News / Africa

Aid Agencies: West Africa Needs Better Disaster Preparedness

West Africa Needs Better Disaster Preparedness

People queue to pass through a make-shift bridge after an heavy flood swept away a connecting bridge in Nigeria's south-west city of Ibadan,  August 30, 2011.
People queue to pass through a make-shift bridge after an heavy flood swept away a connecting bridge in Nigeria's south-west city of Ibadan, August 30, 2011.

Aid agencies say governments in West Africa should be doing a better job preparing for natural disasters by involving more young people and improving the flow of information. 

Aid agencies say natural disasters such as drought, flooding, and chronic food insecurity are especially punishing for young people in West Africa.  With more than half the region's population under the age of 18, relief officials say governments need to start doing a better job preparing for those disasters.

UNICEF chief of emergency operations for West and Central Africa Grant Leaity says not all preparations are costly.

"There is a lot of preparedness that can be done, which does not actually cost money," said Leaity.  "It is more about getting organized.  So having a clearly established plan of in the event of, in fact we know these risks are going to come, so when it comes this is now everybody's role.  This is who is going to a lead on that.  This is what we are going to do in the schools, and that is what we are going to do in the health centers.  And this is not happening enough, unfortunately, in the region.”

One of Africa's biggest obstacles is a lack of reliable, timely information.

"The first thing that we have to do is disseminate good information in good time,” said Mie Takaki, Senegal country director for Plan International. "Information can prepare, react, and manage the situation.  But when the information is hidden or exaggerated or not disseminated on time, then that is when the disaster happens, especially for these cyclical things.”

Takaki says better information helps aid agencies and local governments improve assistance for those most affected by natural disaster.

"How much water should we expect this year?  And how much preparation should I do?  And how should I prepare my health post?  How should I prepare little ones when they go to school without water?” she said.

Takaki says Plan International is helping neighborhood youth groups in a door-to-door campaign to disinfect public places and demonstrate better hygiene in the fight against cholera.

"We knew the school does not have enough water, but we can not stop children from going to school just because there is a risk of cholera.  Right?  So then how do we prepare?  That becomes the question.  Once we ask the right question in the right timing then everybody can unite and prepare and prevent,” said Takaki.

UNICEF's Grant Leaity says disaster risk reduction is a missing piece between long-term development agencies and emergency relief groups who put out humanitarian “fires”.

"For example, think about how could we put communities out of risk or at less risk by building raised schools or health centers or actually even suggesting that people move from one location, which is just inherently at risk and it is going to be increasing so," he said. "These are not things that those firefighters are good at doing.  That is not their skill set.”

By involving more young people in disaster preparedness, aid agencies say the impact of famine and epidemics in West Africa can be eased, lowering the loss of life and property damage that most often affect the poorest households.

You May Like

Sunni-Shi’ite Divide Threatens Middle East Stability

Analysts say ancient dispute that traces back to Islamic Revolution is fueling modern day unrest More

Shifting Demographics Lie Beneath Racial Tensions in Ferguson

As Missouri suburb morphed from majority white to majority black, observers say power structure remained static More

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Restriction is toughest since Soviet era, though critics reject move as patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid