Understanding Disaster Risk in Eswatini
After tropical cyclone Eloise hit Eswatini in 2021, the country’s National Disaster Management Agency’s (NDMA) ‘Build Back Better’ program kicked in to help build nearly 800 homes over the next year. The project also included building foot bridges for communities, said Wandile Mavuso of the NDMA.
Now, the agency is focused on a preparation rather than response strategy. One example is the NDMA’s program for building climate-smart houses that are disaster resistant. The agency instructs community members on how to build climate-resilient structures, such as laying tiles a certain way, and community members come together to build the houses. The program uses the local workforce rather than bringing in assistance.
“If there’s an electrician in the community, we opt to use that one as opposed to hiring someone outside the community,” Mavuso says.
While the cyclone was devastating, the most prevalent natural hazard in Eswatini is drought. The NDMA encourages water harvesting and educates communities on planting drought resistant crops. Here, the theme of building resilience and self-reliance continues.
“We’re teaching people how to best prepare for droughts, how to prepare for disasters, as opposed to taking care of disasters once they happen, Mavuso says.
UNDRR supports Eswatini through the Global Risk Assessment Framework (GRAF), which aims to help UNDRR’s partners enhance their understanding of the changing nature of risk in order to scale-up and accelerate solutions for resilience. UNDRR and the NDMA recently convened a GRAF workshop on Understanding Risk and brought together government, UN agencies, private sector, and civil society stakeholders. More importantly, the participants had an opportunity to review, engage and contribute to UNDRR’s Risk Information Exchange (RiX).
Speaking at the workshop, Mr. Russell Dlamini, CEO of the NDMA emphasized the importance of GRAF as an international framework for developing and sharing risk information and promoting a pro-active culture of risk-informed decision-making.
“We are talking about different types of data and information which comes from different sectors, but which also reflects the different realities in the country. Whether it is data about hazards, or about the kind of assets and property and people who are exposed to these hazards, or about the vulnerability these populations have, for us, understanding the risk comes from first having the data and information, then working with the data and information for a particular purpose.” said Katarina Mouakkid Soltesova, Risk Knowledge Officer, UNDRR at the sidelines of the GRAF workshop in Eswatini.
UNDRR is also working closely with UN partners in Eswatini to incorporate risk knowledge into planning processes. The ongoing update of the UN Common Country Assessment (CCA) process has benefited from this collaboration through UNDRR’s integration of risk data and information into the CCA. A key component of this process is the RiX spotlight report which has now been added as an annex to the CCA.