The Director for Social and Humanitarian Affairs of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Madam Florence Iheme has reiterated the organisation’s mandate to strengthen humanitarian assistances in the sub-region.
She said in this perspective, ECOWAS was developing a regional civil military coordination mechanism for a more effective response.She said in line with this mandate and mission, the Humanitarian and Social Affairs had developed the policies and operational tools for humanitarian intervention among others, the ECOWAS Humanitarian Policy and the Disaster Risk Reduction Policy.
Madam Iheme made this submission at the launch of a two-week core course on Humanitarian Assistance in West Africa (HAWA) at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) in Accra. The course is being jointly organised by the KAIPTC in collaboration with the Austrian Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution with the support of the Austrian Ministry of Defence and funded by the Austrian Development Agency.
During the course, participants would be introduced to project management in the context of humanitarian emergencies, such as conflicts and natural disasters.Other interventions are the ECOWAS Emergency Response Team, the ECOWAS Humanitarian Mechanism, and the ECOWAS Humanitarian Depot, put together to enhance humanitarian effectiveness in the region.
Madam Iheme said it was gratifying to note that an area of emphasis for the course was on the response coordination between civilians and the military during emergencies. She said ECOWAS placed a lot of emphasis not only on the coordination of different actors, but especially with military personnel.
She said the impediments to the attainment of the objectives of ECOWAS were poverty, disease and the high incidence of natural or human made disasters, which resulted in forced population displacement, statelessness, destruction to property and key socio-economic infrastructures, flood-induced epidemics, food insecurity and malnutrition.
She said: “the region is confronted with an increasing number of challenges, which constitute obstacles to integration and development”. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, 233 million out of over 367 million people in the West Africa sub-region live in extreme poverty, a population that was mostly vulnerable to the effects of widespread food insecurity, recurrent natural disasters, climate change and socio-political instability”.
Air Vice Marshall Griffiths S. Evans, Commandant of the KAIPTC, said the African continent was plagued with conflict; and that the security agencies had been working tirelessly and patiently to maintain its peace and security.
He said the KAIPTC was very happy to be part of this process; declaring that “it is our responsibility to remember that over 210 million Africans live in extreme poverty. “And as a result of that, there is food insecurity, natural disasters, climate change, global economic crisis, and socio political instability leading to the numerous conflicts within the African region.
"Ultimately, this has led to large populations migrating having a lot of epidemics, and increasing food insecurity which has led to weakening of fragile state capacities that is evident.
“It is therefore, our responsibility to organise a course like this to train, build capacity and raise awareness in Africans to mitigate these vices.” A Representative of the Austrian Development Agency, Mrs Rita Glavitza, said Ghana’s continuous commitment and democratic strength in achieving sustainable peace and stability was simply impressing.
She said Ghana was rightfully acknowledged by the international community as a role model in a volatile region that was troubled by manifold challenges and threats to security and development. She noted that the KAIPTC was uniquely placed to provide the space for sharing experiences, overcoming institutional barriers and building consensus between these diverse actors.
The National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) Deputy Director-General, Technical and Reforms, Mr Seji Saji, said that the course was very relevant to those on the continent and particularly West Africa. He said in Ghana no single institution or organisation had all the resources and means to manage such humanitarian issues, adding, “Therefore, there is the need for a coordinated effort among several response agencies; civil and non-civil, to maximise results,” he said.