President Jammeh inaugurates National Disaster Governing Council
Monday, February 16, 2009
The Gambian leader Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh, last Friday inaugurated the National Disaster Management Governing Council and Agency, at a ceremony held at State House in Banjul.
Enacted by the National Assembly in October 2008, the body is tasked among other things to ensure effective leadership, sanity and to gather more resources to better prepare for and respond to disaster, more effectively and in a well co-ordinated manner. In his inaugural statement, President Jammeh hailed the vice president, Ajaratou Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, who is the chairperson of the National Disaster Management Governing Council, and her team for their dedication to the course of disaster management over the years.
He recalled that disaster management kicked off way back during the transition period, when there were frequent occurences of floods due to heavy rainfall, forcing government to put mechanisms in place to avert future disasters.
President Jammeh observed that if The Gambia is to attain its Vision 2020 goal and make it sustainable, the government should be prepared to tackle natural hazards on the population. The governing council, the president added, is now empowered by the law and should not only be restricted to the management of disasters, but to be pro-active in ensuring its prevention.
Flood and fire outbreaks being the two main types of disasters in the country, Professor Jammeh highlighted, could be averted in the future if preventive measures are applied. ''Most of these disasters that occur in the country are man-made, which can be prevented. People continue to build structures on waterways, knowing fully well that if you block the path of water, you are calling for a disaster, either to you or diverting it to somewhere'', he observed.
The Gambian leader reiterated to the governing council the need to embark on sensitization in a bid to avoid preventable disasters. "I think the population should be educated on disaster issues to avoid recurrences'' he said. He further observed that over the years, the country has had a track record of producing areas that are more prone to disasters. He noted that it will be prudent for the governing council to visit these areas and find out the reasons for these, with a view to device ways and means of preventing recurrences.
He also suggested the need for the council to have a master plan on disaster issues, and scout out experts with a view to managing trauma and other related impacts when disaster occurs. President Jammeh also highlighted the need for a designated emergency unit whose responsibilities and duties will strictly be to respond quickly to disasters in the country.
Similarly, President Jammeh urged the council to look at similar outfits outside the country that are well established and to see how best they can provide technical assistance in the quest to effectively prevent and manage disasters. President Jammeh further urged the governing council to be vigilant for the fact that some disasters are deliberately done to serve as lucrative business, saying that cases should be thoroughly investigated before any aid is given.
While describing the inauguration of the governing council as a manifestation of his government's readiness to prevent, investigate and manage disaster cases, President Jammeh applauded the UN system, the NGO community and other stakeholders for their contribution to disaster management in the country over the years. Also speaking at the ceremony, the vice president and secretary of state for Women's Affairs, Dr Ajaratou Isatou Njie-Saidy, hailed the Gambian leader for conceiving the idea of legalising the disaster management committee, turning it into a governing council and agency for effective and holistic approach to the management of disasters in the country.
The vice president stressed the need for all hands to be on deck to address disaster issues, saying that failure of this will result to disruption of development initiatives, notably infrastructural development. Acknowledging Professor Jammeh's immense support to them over the years, Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy hailed the immense support from the UN system and other development partners of The Gambia.
Giving a brief account of disaster cases in the country, Fatou Jassey Kuyateh, permanent secretary at the Office of Vice President, said The Gambia has over the years experienced a number of disasters(mainly man-made), and other calamities. These unfortunate developments, she said, often destroy vital human lives, shelter, clothing and food. She highlighted the 1999 and 2002 floods in the Upper River Region and other parts of the country, a calamity, she said, that had affected 13.1 percent of the rural population. Other disaster cases recorded, PS Kuyateh went on, are the Serrekunda market fire incident, the Kanifing East fire incident and the Ebo Town floods in 2007, to name a few.
Permanent Secretary Kuyateh maintained that these disasters have negatively affected private businesses, the economy, and that they have contributed to the lose of human lives. Madam Chinwe Dike, the UN resident representative in The Gambia, for her part, said the inauguration of the governing council is a clear manifestation of government's political will to manage disasters in the country. She said that the government of The Gambia have recognised that one cannot achieve the MDGs without managing climate change, "which calls for attention." The UN Rep hailed the government for enacting the Disaster Management Bill and for the budget allocated to the governing council.
Author: by Hatab Fadera