Ghana has joined the rest of the world to observe the 2021 International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction in Accra with a call to enhance international cooperation for sustainable support.
The international day for Disaster Risk Reduction commemorates a day dedicated to disasters risk reduction. It is also a forum for nations to take stock of their performance in the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and by extension the Sustainable Development Goals.
This year's celebration is on the theme: "Only Together...We Can Save the Planet" and is focussed on target (F) of the Sendai Framework- "substantially enhance international cooperation to developing countries through adequate and sustainable support."
Nana Eric Agyemang-Prempeh, the Director-General of National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), speaking at a virtual meeting to mark the day, said the importance of international cooperation could not be overemphasised since disaster did not know borders, ethnic groups, race, colour, economic or political decoration.
"Like the seemingly sudden appearance of the pandemic when we least expected, we can be taken by surprise if we are less proactive. Being taken aback when we are least prepared or think we are prepared should never be our portion.
"It is in the right direction, therefore, that this year's celebration has the theme 'Only Together....' It is left for us to complete the sentence to our best possible conviction. One may say only together...... We can save the Planet. We can also say, Only Together...Their World Will Become Resilient. We can continue on and on...".
He said there was a high potential of a major earthquake in the country, adding that Ghana has a history of earthquakes, including some very devastating ones like the Accra earthquake which occurred on June 22, 1939, and caused major destructions.
Since then, other minor earthquakes have been felt in Ghana, even more recently. Every indication points to the belief that the consequence of a major earthquake in Ghana will be devastating and costly, he added.
Nana Agyemang-Prempeh said though the measures to build resilience would also require a high financial commitment, "Our focus in this respect, therefore, to obtain earthquake resilience, is, to begin with, a full characterisation of earthquake hazard."
That, he said, was strongly recommended to assess the likely effects on people and structures and tasked the Ghana Geological Survey Authority and Ghana Institute of Engineers to undertake, as a matter of urgency, a robust probabilistic seismic hazard analysis for Ghana, adding, resources need to be committed to support that course.
"We also need to develop and implement seismic sensitive land use plan. We have to ensure the existence of elaborate preparedness and mitigation measures to lessen the impact.
"We cannot also leave out the importance of a state-of-the-art response system with the required equipment to enable swift, professional and efficient response in the event of a major earthquake. In addition, the ability to build back better has to be enhanced.
The Director-General said the catastrophic nature of earthquake disaster requires that efforts be gathered to deal with all its facets in an integrated fashion.
"Earthquakes do not have respect for which foreign nationals are involved or their social status. They hit by observing the principle of proportional equity, where the more prepared suffer less while the least prepared suffer most.
All of us in Accra are thus vulnerable in so far as we live within the fault zone.
As this year's theme depicts, it's Only Together that we can win the battle against an earthquake disaster in the country and build the required resilience," he said.
He noted that the developed countries, according to this year's focus for the celebration have to cooperate with Ghana in the fight to attain earthquake resilience.
"The government has sponsored the development of a document called a framework for Refocusing Ghana's Earthquake Preparedness and Response, to give us a direction in dealing with earthquake risk. In due time NADMO will share the document with you so you can strategise for the area and direction of your cooperation."
Naana Eyiah, the Deputy Minister for the Interior, said Ghana appreciated the request for the developed countries to cooperate with developing countries to address their disaster risks.
"This forum, therefore, provides a support platform to highlight best practices and examples of international Cooperation that have had positive impacts on the lives of people who live in disaster-prone parts of the world.
"The question we need to answer is; what do we have on our sleeves to showcase in this direction? Having implemented the Sendai Framework for the past six years," she said.
She noted that disasters impact low and middle-income countries extremely, especially considering mortality, numbers of people injured, displaced and homeless, economic losses and damage to the critical edifice.
"Only Together... therefore, means that international cooperation is necessary to ensure that no unsafe persons such as women, children and youth, those with disabilities, aged, migrants and native people are left behind in disaster risk solutions."
She said: "As a Nation, we are confronted with some threats that we have to deal with. These include disease outbreak, pest and insect infection, domestic and commercial fires and zoonotic risks among others".
The Deputy Minister said the country had invested a huge amount of national resources, supported by the development partners, to reduce the risk to disasters, yet, "as we try to reduce the present risk other risks emerge, apparently due to the general nature of risk and climate change.
"To sustain our risk reduction efforts, the National Disaster Management Fund has been established under Act 2016, Act 927. We encourage all willing partners to arrange to donate to the Fund. For those who will like to donate to the Fund, the Ministry for the Interior and the National Disaster Management Organization would be pleased to show them the procedure."
She, therefore, stressed the need to merge science and evidence-based warnings in recent years and prepare well for global threats such as new pandemics, global warming and the spread of land erosion.
"These universal emergencies can only be well addressed through international cooperation on disaster risk management," she added.
The UN Resident Coordinator, Charles Abani, in a speech read on his behalf, said an analysis by the UN had shown that man-made actions that cause disasters had increased in Ghana and required robust efforts to address the situation alongside the natural disasters.
He, therefore, pledged the UN's continuous efforts in supporting the country's disaster response measures.