The pandemic is global, but the risk is local


Adair Ackley

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction - Regional Office for Africa
Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction

A webinar on  “Community-based disaster risk reduction approaches in the context of COVID-19 in Africa” was co-organized by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction Regional Office for Africa and the Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction (GNDR). The webinar was attended by 290 participants, which highlighted the importance of effective local prevention, preparedness and response to address the risk of disasters.

Mr. Amjad Abbashar, Chief of the UNDRR Africa Regional Office opened the webinar noting that, “UNDRR advocates for the empowerment of local governments and communities, as they are often the first line of response to disasters” . Through the Making Cities Resilient Campaign, UNDRR has been able to support the implementation of the Sendai Framework in coherence with the development agenda in collaboration with partners. “As we look beyond 2020, we seek to strengthen these partnerships to accelerate efforts towards the achievement of the 2030 targets”, Mr. Abbashar said. In addition, the Sendai Framework calls for a comprehensive approach to disaster risk reduction that is based on  an all of society engagement that acknowledges  the role of different stakeholders in the agenda.

Mr. Bijay Kumar, the Executive Director for GNDR mentioned that development cannot be achieved if communities resilience is not placed at the top of the political agenda. “They must be enabled to participate, influence and take decisions on risk-informed development policies and practices. The COVID-19 pandemic shows the need for strong community engagement that is supported by  communications systems, which is a core part of the Community-Based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM) practices.

Mr. Emmanuel Seck, from EDNA-Energie and member of the GNDR Global Board underlined that CBDRM can increase awareness and community engagement. Community-based approaches will reinforce communities ownership and foster coherent development of policies and plans at all levels. This should be combined with institutional mechanisms and tools to support communities with risk prevention policies and strategies that include health dimension.

Mr. Buh Gaston, explained the GNDR Views from the Frontline (VFL) tool. VFL provides a complementary bottom-up perspectives on progress at the impact/outcome level to UNDRR’s top-down Sendai Monitoring Tool. In Cameroon, VFL enhanced the working relationship between NGOs, CSOs, local governments and other DRR stakeholders to identify DRR indicators and risks. It also provided an opportunity to raise awareness to at risk communities. The VFL can be a vehicle to sensitize communities to COVID-19. There is a need to identify and understand the local context before designing projects.

Ms. Edna Kaptoyo, from the Pastoral Communities Empowerment Programme (PACEP) shared some best practices and opportunities to integrate climate change adaptation (CCA) and DRR. Some examples she gave were eco cultural mapping in Kenya where communities use their indigenous knowledge to reduce forest degradation and environmental risk, Community-based monitoring and information systems (CBMIS) initiatives to monitor their community’s well-being ,state of their territories and natural resources (including on the health of biodiversity, and climate change impacts).

Among the recommendations that were presented to  advance  community interventions for resilience were the need for  proper participatory governance, building financial and technical capacities and strengthening partnerships between governments, local actors and international institutions. Calls were made for central governments to empower local governments for better engagement with the community, and to promote a coherent approach towards resilience. Local actors must be at the heart of data collection, triggers, and recipients of alert messages at the local level for effective early action strategies. Being inclusive is critical to ensuring that no one is left behind. Participants appreciated the platform to share lessons and experiences and encouraged partners to promote these even more, especially during the pandemic where COVID-19 solutions are sought.

The Sendai Framework calls on governments and communities to strengthen the design and implementation of inclusive policies and social safety-net mechanisms that are integrated with livelihood enhancement programs, including access to basic health-care services.  Target ‘e’ of the Framework aims at a substantial increase in national and local strategies by 2020. In Africa, 25 countries currently have national DRR strategies in place.

The recorded webinar can be found here.

Photo Credit: GNDR Chad

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