The National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) has urged ECOWAS member states to set-up a standby and well-resourced sub-regional emergency response team capable of responding timely and efficiently to disaster situations.
Mr Seji Saji, Deputy Director-General, NADMO, said such a standby team would help mitigate the impact of disaster emergencies.
He said ECOWAS states could develop better response mechanisms through coordination; explaining that this could be achieved through more collaboration such as regular sensitisation exercise that would help humanitarian agencies and responders identify and understand their roles better.
He noted that it would also help ECOWAS member states identify existing cross border gaps and develop mechanisms to address them. Mr Saji stated this on Monday at the opening of “Humanitarian Assistance in West Africa Core Course” at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) in Accra.
The two-week course is jointly being organised by the KAIPTC and the Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution (ASPR), under the auspices of the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and the Austrian Ministry of Defence (MOD).
It is being attended by 20 participants from 15 African countries.
The aim of the course is to improve effectiveness of humanitarian assistance by providing participants with thorough knowledge and skills for disaster management.
Mr Saji said additionally, ECOWAS should develop a database of all the humanitarian assistance capacities of all member states to know which to fall on for a particular support. He cited that Sierra Leone in the recent past was hit by a complex emergency of floods and landslides triggered by torrential rains and earth tremor around the Sugar Loaf Mountain in Freetown.
He also mentioned the Ebola pandemic which hit Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea; adding that to help member states mitigate such humanitarian challenges, the ECOWAS Commission adopted a Humanitarian Policy 2012-2017.
He recounted that at the 12th Annual Heads of Disaster Management Agencies and Civil Protection Authorities of Member States, the New Action Plan for Disaster Management (2018-2022) was also validated for the sub-region in September this year in Bamako.
On relief funding to humanitarian agencies, Mr Saji said the sub-region’s weak economies make it difficult for governments to devote adequate funds for developing resilient communities, develop feasible plans and prepare appropriately to react to emergency situations.“There may be plans, but these plans are not feasible because the necessary resources and logistics to back the plans are not available,” the Deputy Director-General said.
Professor Alois A. Hirschmugl, Humanitarian Affairs Advisor to the Austrian Defence Staff, said the recent flooding in Northern Ghana following the spillage of the Bagre Dam in Burkina Faso and the torrential rains in Nigeria, which resulted in flood; with both led to several fatalities were worrying.
He said the military and civilians could work together in times of emergencies to address disaster situations.In attendance at the opening of the workshop was Air Vice Marshal Griffiths S. Evans, Commandant, KAIPTC.